Lead colon cancer
If colon cancer is detected early on, there is a very high survival rate. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Abu Dhabi: The risk of death from colon cancer can be cut by half in patients receiving a newly available Artificial Intelligence-assisted colonoscopy that is now available in Abu Dhabi.

The GI Genius system is able to detect pre-cancerous growths in the colon in 50 to 55 per cent of individuals, compared to a 30 to 40 per cent detection rate using just a regular colonoscope. The technology, approved last month in the UAE and earlier this year in the United States and Europe, is now available at the Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC).

Fatal disease

Colon cancer is the second most fatal cancer in the UAE, and the top cause of cancer death among men. However, if the disease is caught early during a colonoscopy – in which an endoscope, a flexible tube with a camera mounted at its tip is used to detect pre-cancerous or cancerous growths – there is a very high survival rate.

Reducing risk

“The GI Genius technology uses the same kind of scope as in a regular colonoscopy. But some polyps or adenomas can be hard to detect because they are flat or very subtle. AI in the GI Genius enhances the detection rate of these polyp sites. With every one per cent increase in the adenoma detection rate, the risk of developing colon cancer is reduced by three per cent, and the risk of death from colon cancer by five per cent. In effect, a 15 per cent increase in polyp detection can therefore result in a 10 per cent decrease in adenoma detection, and a 50 per cent decrease in the risk of colon cancer death,” Dr Michael Wallace, consultant and gastroenterology division chair at the SSMC, told Gulf News,

Dr Michael Wallace

“Our controlled trials showed that this technology significantly increases our ability to find precancerous polys of the colon, allowing us to remove those polyps and prevent them from becoming malignant. During trials, we showed one of the highest increases in polyp detections of any technology that is geared towards detection, and we are now lucky enough to have brought the now approved system to our facility for patients to benefit from our long-held expertise and experience in using the technology,” Dr Wallace said.

SSMC, which operates under a joint venture between the public health provider, the Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (Seha), and the Mayo Clinic, was able to leverage the new technology following its trial in the United States and Europe. Dr Wallace was himself the principal investigator in a randomised, controlled study of 1,200 patients in the United States.

Trained AI

Dr Wallace explained that the technology was developed by having experts offer their insight into polyp sites when watching video recordings of colonoscopes. The AI in the GI Genius was then trained to use these insights to better detect polyps. This AI can now flag polyp presence during colonoscopies on an augmented video screen that will be visible to doctors driving the endoscope, which can then remove the polyps.

“The most important measure of efficacy for endoscopies is how well the technology increases the adenoma detection rate, which denotes the rate at which we detect pre-cancerous polyps in the colon. The more adenomas (polyps) you find and remove, the more you prevent colon cancer” the doctor said.

Screening recommendation

The UAE recommends a colonoscopy every 10 years for healthy individuals aged 50 years or more, while Emiratis recommended to undergo screening from 40 years of age onwards. The disease is slightly more common in men than women. Meanwhile, alcohol consumption, tobacco use, obesity, family history, and a diet rich in meat and processed foods are all risk factors.

“Many people are reluctant to undergo colonoscopies because of the embarrassment factor during the screening. However, it is a small and temporary price to pay for half an hour if you can detect and eliminate the risk of colon cancer death,” Dr Wallace said. He added that an all-female staff, including a selection of five female physicians, can tend to female patients at the SSMC.

In addition, there is no additional charge for the colonoscopy that uses the GI Genius tech, compared to one that does not.