IIIT Hyderabad working on smartphone detection of oral cancer

Hyderabad: The city-based International Institute of Information Technology is working on an automated solution that requires just a smartphone as an early oral cancer screening tool. It aims to use this to flag abnormal oral lesions before they progress into advanced stages of cancer.

The project is a collaborative effort with Grace Cancer Foundation and BioCon Foundation, which evolved after the Grace Foundation noticed during its rural cancer screening camps that most patients were diagnosed at an advanced stage. According to Foundation CEO and Director Dr. Chinnababu Sunkavalli, its efforts for early screening and detection of cancers via its mobile camps were impeded by sporadic availability of highly skilled medical professionals such as oncologists who can visually examine oral cavities or interpret x-ray test results instantaneously.

The Foundation then approached IIIT-Hyderabad, after which the two brainstormed to arrive at a method where an AI algorithm could flag oral cavity images, taken by simple phone cameras, as malignant or benign.

“A project like this needed funding, so iHub-Data stepped in to help us develop a solution for oral cancer screening,” says Dr. Vinod. P.K, who is leading the Cancer initiative at IIIT-H’s iHub-Data, which is putting together large-scale datasets, with one of the first initiatives centred around image-based early screening and diagnosis of cancer.

According to IIIT-H’s ‘official’ blogger Sarita Chebbi, the first phase of the project which involves collection of data by the Grace Foundation, was simplified with development of an app with the assistance of Product Labs, the market relevant engineering arm of IIITH’s Technology Transfer Office.

“The mobile app has now been tested and will be used for the first time for oral cancer screening. Apart from recording photographic images of oral cavities, demographic details of the patient and possibly follow-up reports that will come with the image can be maintained on it too,” says Dr. Vinod.

With BioCon Foundation running a similar initiative of a tech-based mobile early detection and prevention of oral cancer, the IIITH team has now joined hands with them too.

According to Prof. Bapi Raju, the healthcare lead at iHub-Data, “Apart from the photographs of the oral cavity, our model would take into consideration lifestyle, family and medical history, vitals and blood tests, clinical examination, as well as lifestyle information to improve the predictive capability of the AI algorithm.”

Data collection for the project kicked off in November 2021, he said.

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