The UNICA4EU Knowledge base: foundations and literacy for the use of AI in Childhood Cancer

The UNICA4EU initiative is dedicated to harnessing the capabilities of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to enhance the battle against childhood cancer throughout Europe. This project has led to the creation of an extensive knowledge base, which stands as a pivotal resource for stakeholders interested in the intersection of AI and childhood cancer management. This meticulously curated platform compiles insights from a diverse group of contributors, including caregivers, medical professionals, AI developers, and representatives from technology and industry sectors. It has been carefully designed to put the user at the very center, aiming to both educate and empower all participants in the realm of pediatric oncology.

The knowledge base is structured around two principal features:

  • A decision tree: This intuitive visual tool provides a clear roadmap for the comprehensive process of designing, developing, testing, and deploying AI solutions in the context of childhood cancer.
  • Thematic bookshelves: Organized by specific topics, these sections gather relevant information, underscore the challenges encountered, and offer practical advice on the application of AI across various facets of managing the disease.

With its user-friendly interface, the knowledge base is poised to become an indispensable tool, encouraging ongoing engagement from the community. The launch of this platform by the UNICA4EU consortium marks the beginning of a broader endeavor aimed at exploiting AI technologies to enhance the speed and quality of care provided to children facing cancer.

A New Milestone in AI for Pediatric Oncology: Our interview with Prof. Pamela Kearns

In this exclusive interview, Professor Pamela Kearns, a leading figure in pediatric oncology at the University of Birmingham and former president of SIOP Europe, shares her insights as the project lead of the groundbreaking UNICA4EU initiative. During these past 18 months, everyone at UNICA4EU has been hard at work to harness the potential of Artificial Intelligence to tackle unmet needs in pediatric cancer.

In our chat, Professor Kearns discusses the project’s achievements, including the efforts on creating a collaboration space based on a shared language between pediatric oncology experts and AI specialists, the potential establishment of a European Child Cancer Data initiative, and the essential partnerships across Europe that are necessary to address the unique challenges linked to treating child cancer with AI-powered tools.

As the UNICA4EU project concludes, she reflects on the lessons learned, the importance of multi-stakeholder collaboration, and the project’s foundational work for future AI developments in pediatric oncology, which marks a pivotal moment in understanding the complexities and future directions of AI in healthcare, emphasizing the project’s role in building trust, addressing legal and ethical concerns, and ultimately improving outcomes for children with cancer.

Watch the full interview below!

Revolutionizing Cancer Research with AI: Insights from Luis Martí-Bonmatí

Luis Martí-Bonmatí -Chairman of the Radiology Department at La Fe University and Technical Hospital and Director of the Biomedical Imaging research group- stands at the forefront of integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) in medical imaging. His role extends to coordinating a significant network of EU research projects, and notably EUCAIM, the flagship European Cancer Imaging Iniative. This effort focuses on leveraging AI in cancer diagnosis and treatment, highlighting the transformative potential of AI in medical sciences.

Luis’ work in EUCAIM includes spearheading the creation of a research infrastructure designed to facilitate the application of AI in health imaging. This initiative aims to collect cancer images, which will be made accessible to researchers, enabling advancements in image harmonization, standardization, normalization and resizing using AI technologies. “Next year, we will be able to have more than 60 million cancer images that will be accessible to allow researchers to perform AI developments” he explains. EUCAIM has garnered the support of approximately 76 partners, all united in their commitment to advancing medical imaging and the quantitative extraction of information from images for AI development.

One of the critical challenges Luis and his team face is the barrier to data access, a significant hurdle in medical imaging research. To overcome this, they advocate for federated developments and play an instrumental role in defining standards, architectures and ontologies in the field. These efforts aim to streamline research processes and enhance the utility and interoperability of medical imaging data across various platforms.

His vision also extends beyond the technical aspects of AI in medical imaging: Luis is keen on improving the precision and reliability of disease diagnosis and treatment, with a focus on cancer. By leveraging AI, he seeks to enhance the interpretation of medical images, allowing for more accurate assessments of tumor states and grades. “We are really willing to push AI to be released as a framework with demarcation parameters not related to the vendor or the protocol but to the disease expression”. This patient-centric approach prioritizes the disease’s characteristics over the technological specifics of imaging equipment, aiming for a more accurate and meaningful analysis of patient data.

The ultimate goal is to link existing repositories for research and utilize federated APIs to facilitate seamless access to data, thereby enhancing research capabilities and outcomes. These initiatives represent a significant leap forward in the application of AI in healthcare, specifically in the realm of cancer research. By addressing the challenges of data access and standardization, Luis and his collaborators are setting the stage for groundbreaking advancements in medical imaging and the broader application of AI in health diagnostics and treatment planning.

Integrating AI Ethics into Healthcare: The Perspective of Carina Dantas

In the rapidly evolving domain of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its applications in healthcare, ethical considerations take on an indispensable role. Carina Dantas -CEO at SHINE 2Europe– brings a unique and insightful perspective to this discussion. Operating from Coimbra, Portugal, her organization champions the cause of inclusive communities through applied research, ensuring that every stakeholder -citizens included- plays a part in shaping our communal future.

In our interview, Carina emphasizes the societal dimensions of ethics in AI, suggesting a shift away from merely legal or procedural interpretations towards understanding ethics as fundamentally intertwined with societal engagement. Specifically, she highlights the importance of considering diverse needs and challenges in the development of digital tools.

Her work in applying AI within the healthcare sector -particularly in cancer care- is deeply personal and reflective of a broader concern for non-communicable diseases. Carina shares, “I am a cancer survivor and this raised my specific attention to this issue.” This personal connection drives her to explore AI’s potential in enhancing self-management and predictive capabilities in healthcare.

To navigate the complexities of integrating AI into healthcare ethically, Carina proposes a systematic approach to addressing challenges. She suggests clustering these challenges into four categories: individual, technical, organizational and societal, advocating for a tailored approach to each case rather than high-level discussions. This method acknowledges the limitations inherent in current technologies and emphasizes the importance of transparency and explainability to build trust among users.

Education, awareness, and training also emerge as critical themes. Carina points out the current gaps in medical education concerning AI, which is crucial for developing unbiased and effective tools. “Education, awareness and training are some of the key issues that were raised by everyone,” she remarks, underlining the necessity for a multidisciplinary understanding to foster the development of ethical AI solutions in healthcare.

As AI’s role in healthcare continues to expand, a robust framework for ethical AI use in healthcare might provide valuable guidance for ensuring that technological advancements are leveraged responsibly and inclusively, always with an eye towards the ethical implications for individuals and society at large.

Revolutionizing Cardiac Care with AI: The Journey of Fernando Pozo and Spika Tech

Fernando Pozo -Chief Operating Officer of Spika Tech– is pioneering a transformation in cardiac healthcare through the innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) technologies. Based in Madrid, Spika Tech has emerged as a beacon of innovation within the tech community, having been awarded the prestigious EIC Accelerator grant by the European Union. This accolade was in recognition of their groundbreaking project, VR-Cardio, aimed at redefining the diagnosis, visualization and treatment of heart arrhythmias.

The essence of VR-Cardio lies in its advanced medical tool that offers a comprehensive representation of cardiac activity. Fernando explains, “the core of the project is based on an intelligent data decision system using machine learning techniques, virtual reality and augmented reality technologies”. This integrated approach not only enhances fibrillation detection but also significantly reduces the costs and risks associated with conventional, more invasive methods.

Under the auspices of the EIC Accelerator program, Spika Tech’s solution has undergone pre-clinical testing in several Spanish hospitals and has garnered national and international recognition. This success underscores Spika Tech’s commitment to innovation, effective implementation, and the potential to revolutionize cardiac healthcare diagnosis, alongside fostering advancements in education and research in this domain.

Fernando highlights the importance of understanding regulatory frameworks and the necessity of working with standardized, securely shared data to ensure the effectiveness and scalability of their solution. He also stresses the critical role of education and training in equipping professionals with the skills and knowledge to leverage AI technology effectively in a clinical setting.

A multidisciplinary approach has been pivotal to the development and successful implementation of VR-Cardio. Collaboration with clinicians, data scientists, technology experts and universities has accelerated innovation and facilitated the practical application of AI in healthcare. Fernando notes, “it’s also important to recognize the role of funding and public engagement. The success of VR-Cardio in this field could not be possible without our cross-sector partnerships, which brought together expertise from healthcare, technology, data science design, but also from academia to our final product.

These collaborative efforts have been instrumental in creating a comprehensive AI solution capable of addressing the complexities of healthcare challenges today. Through the vision and leadership of Fernando and the innovative work of Spika Tech, the future of cardiac care is set on a path of significant transformation, promising better diagnostics, treatment, and patient outcomes in the realm of cardiac arrhythmias.