The European Union on Monday launched a project to collect and aggregate cancer imaging data in an effort to speed up innovation and early cancer diagnosis using artificial intelligence.
The new European Cancer Imaging Initiative will give clinicians, researchers and innovators "easy access to large amounts of cancer imaging data", the European Commission said in a statement.
"A cross-border, interoperable, and secure infrastructure that will preserve privacy will speed up innovation in medical research. For example, it will be possible to train new technologies that use artificial intelligence (AI) on a large dataset."
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The project is in line with the EU's data strategy and is compliant with the EU's data protection legislation, known as GDPR, according to the statement.
EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said in a speech for the launch that digital technology is changing the understanding of how cancer develops. The new data project links with existing EU efforts to extend routine screening for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer to 90% of eligible Europeans.
European companies that are working on artificial intelligence systems to help diagnose and treat cancer include medical scanner makers Philips and Siemens Healthineers, as well as X-ray contrast media maker Bayer. To strengthen those efforts, Bayer last week agreed to acquire Blackford Analysis Ltd., a British developer of AI to help diagnose disease from medical images.
When contacted by Reuters, Philips and Healthineers cheered the initiative, saying that large amounts of data would be instrumental in creating and validating new diagnostic tools.
"We strongly support the ambition to accelerate the development of algorithms by creating larger data lakes of critical medical images," said Germany's Healthineers.
"It offers us a safe and secure platform to get access to health data in oncology," said Rob Smeets, Director for Innovation and Strategy in the Chief Technology Office at Philips.