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Mine-hunting software helping doctors to identify rare cells in human cancer
Date:10/6/2011

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Medical researchers are demonstrating that Office of Naval Research (ONR)-funded software developed for finding and recognizing undersea mines can help doctors identify and classify cancer-related cells.

"The results are spectacular," said Dr. Larry Carin, professor at Duke University and developer of the technology. "This could be a game changer for medical research."

The problem that physicians encounter in analyzing images of human cells is surprisingly similar to the Navy's challenge of finding undersea mines.

When examining tissue samples, doctors must sift through hundreds of microscopic images containing millions of cells. To pinpoint specific cells of interest, they use an automated image analysis software toolkit called FARSIGHT, or Fluorescence Association Rules for Quantitative Insight. Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), FARSIGHT identifies cells based upon a subset of examples initially labeled by a physician. But the resulting classifications can be erroneous because the computer applies tags based on the small sampling.

By adding ONR's active learning software algorithms, the identification of cells is more accurate and FARSIGHT's performance more consistent, researchers said. The enhanced toolkit also requires physicians to label fewer cell samples because the algorithm automatically selects the best set of examples to teach the software.

"This is not a typical Navy transition," said Carin. "But it is a transition to a very important medical tool used literally at hospitals around the world. There is a real chance this may save lives in the future."

A medical team at the University of Pennsylvania is applying the ONR algorithms, embedded into FARSIGHT, to examine tumors from kidney cancer patients. Focusing on endothelial cells that form the blood vessels that supply the tumors with oxygen and nutrien
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Contact: Peter Vietti
onrcsc@onr.navy.mil
703-588-2167
Office of Naval Research
Source:Eurekalert  

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