The University of Illinois Cancer Center awarded the American Cancer Society Institutional Research Grant (ACS IRG) Diversity Pilot project to Bhrandon Harris, MD, FAAFP, FAMIA, who will investigate how an algorithm-based non-invasive screening can help close the cancer screening gap overall and specifically for pancreatic cancer where symptoms are vague or non-existent in the early stage.
Harris, a primary care physician and Director of Primary Care Clinical Informatics at UI Health, and his research team, experienced in basic and clinical science, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), will work together to develop an integrated algorithm to make sense of disparate electronic medical record data elements, including non-specific patient symptoms, free text, imaging and lab data.
The ACS IRGs are awarded to institutions as block grants and provide seed money for newly independent investigators to initiate cancer research projects. The intent is to support junior faculty in initiating cancer research projects so they can obtain preliminary results that will enable them to compete successfully for national research grants.
The innovative one-year pilot project, “Towards AI-Based Early Detection of Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma,” is focused on patients in the communities served by UI Health.
Harris explained the project starts with data for patients with known pancreatic cancer. The algorithm works to detect hidden patterns in their clinical data that could have revealed a diagnosis sooner.
“The importance of looking at disparate data is in the fact that these data are not always considered by a clinician at the same time. Taking a whole patient approach with respect to their clinical data allows for a deeper understanding of cues that are not obvious to someone looking only at one part of their clinical picture,” Harris said.