Realyze Intelligence, a company that uses artificial intelligence and natural language understanding (NLU) to analyze health care data, has partnered with renowned cancer researchers at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center on a clinical study that could lead to improved treatment options for certain patients.
Using the Realyze platform for this advanced research, UPMC researchers are trying to determine if sentinel lymph node biopsy (SLNB) is appropriate in early-stage breast cancer patients younger than 70. Past research findings from the group showed that use of SLNB can be avoided in most women over 70, in accordance with the Society of Surgical Oncology’s recommendations, and use of SLNB for these women may be a low-value surgery. While the procedure can be helpful for some, the surgery also carries significant risk of complications and other illnesses.
Unlike the time-consuming manual methods traditionally used by researchers, the Realyze clinical intelligence platform rapidly reads both the detailed clinical notes and structured data from patients’ electronic medical records. This deeper knowledge is being used by UPMC physician-scientists to identify precisely defined cohorts of patients who may not benefit from SLNB.
“We want to make sure we are targeting the right care to the right patient to give them the best care and quality of life possible,” said Adrian Lee, Ph.D., director of the UPMC/University of Pittsburgh Institute of Precision Medicine, breast cancer investigator at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and Magee-Womens Research Institute, and lead researcher for this ongoing study. “Sometimes the most interesting and relevant data points are in the unstructured field of a patient’s record. Having the ability to record and analyze the data from these fields is essential to understanding if SLNBs are necessary for this patient population. By using the Realyze platform rather than a cancer registry, we can quickly and efficiently extract a large amount of data in real time.”
In this initial and still unpublished research, the investigators, which include a team of surgeons, led by Emilia Diego, M.D., assistant professor of surgery at the University of Pittsburgh, and scientists, examined data from the electronic medical records of all 602 early-stage breast cancer patients who received SLNBs from January 2015 to December 2017 at 15 UPMC hospitals in western Pennsylvania. The data was then abstracted into a breast cancer patient model with a focus on lymph node identification and positivity. Initial results showed there was no difference in the node positivity rate between patients who were older or younger than 70, especially for women with stage I disease, suggesting that current guidance for SLNBs could be expanded to more patients.
“Our goal is to help researchers, clinicians and health systems get the most of their clinical records and data to drive better care,” said Aaron Brauser, president and CEO of Realyze. As this study progresses, researchers will continue to use the Realyze platform to gather and analyze data around patients’ quality of life and comorbidities.