EU project aims to personalise therapy for breast cancer patients

 The VPH-PRISM project (Virtual Physiological Human: Personalised Predictive Breast Cancer Therapy Through Integrated Tissue Micro-Structure Modelling) aims to improve breast cancer treatment and therapy by helping to translate image data into a comparative framework and create an interdisciplinary link between the broad range of medical imaging technologies such as mammography, ultrasound, MRI, as well as tissue histology. Establishing this interdisciplinary link is a first step towards removing the barriers specialists face when systematically analyzing their joint findings, while a comparative framework will enable them to provide more objective and reproducible therapy planning. The anticipated results of VPH-PRISM – enabling different systems and specialists to ‘speak the same language’ – are hoped to lead to improved breast cancer diagnosis and more objective and precise decisions for personalized breast cancer therapy. The goal is that this will help doctors identify the best treatment option, and to make certain that the treatment is working as effectively as it should.

One in eight women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime. In the European Union, 421,000 new cases are diagnosed each year and 129,000 women die from the disease. However, advances in early detection and treatment have substantially reduced the number of deaths due to the disease. Early detection and treatment typically involve specialists from different medical disciplines. “Radiologists, gynecologists, pathologists, surgeons, radiotherapists and oncologists all make important contributions to the care a patient with breast cancer receives. To do their work, each of the specialists uses a different set of tools specific to their discipline. While this works fairly well for qualitative assessments, it complicates accurate assessment of the combined results,” says Prof. Horst Hahn, from Fraunhofer MEVIS, Germany, scientific coordinator of the VPH-PRISM project. Eight research partners, coordinated by EIBIR, the European Institute for Biomedical Imaging Research in Austria, are developing new technology to improve therapy selection and outcome prediction, as well as surgery planning. Additionally, the project intends to create a database to connect images with other relevant information, such as a patient’s risk of hereditary disease and environmental factors. Interactive ways to query and explore the database are designed to help to distinguish patient groups and identify future research directions. The consortium partners taking part in the project are from four European countries as well as the United States, including research institutes, clinical breast centers, and the healthcare industry. According to Prof. Hahn, the quantitative analysis of whole-slide digital pathology could promote a breakthrough in breast cancer care. “We believe that this breakthrough could be even greater than the effect that the transition from film-based to digital mammography had on early breast cancer detection during the last 15 years”.

The project is co-financed with a sum of €3.7 million by the European Union