Just-Launched COMFORT Project to Improve Diagnosis and Treatment of Urologic Cancers with Artificial Intelligence-Driven Tools
Prostate cancer (PCa) and kidney cancer (KC) are among the most prevalent cancers. Europe sees some of the highest incidence rates of KC for both men and women in the world, while PCa accounted for approximately 23 % of all new cancer cases diagnosed in men across European Union countries in 2020. These cancers have a significant impact on the health and quality of life of those affected and place an increasing burden on our healthcare system, with costs exceeding EUR 12 billion each year. Efficiently leveraging the tremendous amount of structured and unstructured health data (such as electronic health records, biomarkers, and complex medical imaging) generated each year can reduce these burdens, but current clinical methods fall short in utilising the wealth of available data.
To address these challenges, the new COMFORT research project is developing a cutting-edge decision support system. The innovative tool will use artificial intelligence (AI) and data-driven insights to assist medical professionals in delivering improved care for people affected by PCa or KC. Expanding a vast portfolio of health research projects, Eurice joins the COMFORT team of experts from leading research centres, universities, national health services, patient organisations, and SMEs in seven European countries. Led by Charité, the consortium bundles radiologists, urologists, oncologists, deep learning experts, software developers, innovation and valorisation experts, and data scientists. COMFORT will receive EUR 5.9 million in funding from the European Union’s Horizon Europe programme.
"Leveraging health data has the power to transform how cancer is treated. However, the large amount of generated data surpasses human analytical abilities, resulting in inaccurate diagnoses and ineffective treatments. COMFORT aims to harness the great potential that machine learning and eHealth tools offer to improve the health and well-being of those affected by prostate and kidney cancer. As part of the project, Eurice is proud to be at the cutting edge of the artificial intelligence revolution and help take significant steps forward in the fight against cancer," states Dr Cora Meyer, senior project manager for COMFORT at Eurice.
The project is divided into three stages: data collection and preparation, development of trustworthy AI models, and deployment in a real-world clinical setting. During the next four years, COMFORT strives to develop transparent and accurate computational models by integrating complex health data from multiple sources. The models will use advanced AI-driven risk stratification methods to predict, prioritise, and prevent disease progression to guide healthcare professionals in prioritising the best therapies for patients.
Furthermore, COMFORT will provide insights into why AI models are trusted and what triggers mistrust. To this end, researchers will investigate how model outputs are perceived differently by physicians, patients, and computer scientists. Ultimately, the project will produce the first multi-national evaluation of AI models in a clinical setting and offer new insights to maximise the usefulness and acceptance of the technology.