The first UK clinical trial of an artificial intelligence (AI) device which has the potential to transform bowel cancer care is underway at nine NHS trusts.

The COLO-DETECT study is trialing the use of GI Genius, an AI device which helps clinicians identify polyps during colonoscopies.

Five hundred patients have already been recruited to take part in the trial at one of nine participating trusts.

The trusts taking part in the trial are:

  • South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust
  • Northumbria NHS Healthcare Trust
  • North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
  • Kettering General Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
  • The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust
  • Bolton NHS Foundation Trust
  • University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.

GI Genius integrates with existing colonoscopy equipment to analyse images from the camera in real time. The AI device is capable of highlighting area that it thinks may contain a polyp – from which most bowel cancers develop. Spotting as many polyps as possible allows the area to be more closely examined to determine if polyps are present and if they need to be removed.

Dr Laura Neilson, consultant gastroenterologist at South Tyneside and Sunderland, said “Bowel cancer is entirely treatable and in many cases curable, especially if it’s diagnosed early – which is why studies like COLO-DETECT are so important.

“COLO-DETECT is without question, world leading research and we are delighted to be the first hospital in the UK to recruit a patient into this trial and to be leading this pioneering research.”

The COLO-DETECT trial is finding participants through the COLO-SPEED resource, which gives patients in the North East and Cumbria the opportunity to register to take part in research into bowel cancer. Developed in the region and funded by the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, COLO-SPEED includes the development of a digital platform that provides tools to support research projects, and is used to collect data, feedback results and deliver ongoing patient and public engagement.

The COLO-DETECT AI trial is being funded by Medtronic and aims to recruit more than 2,000 patients over the next 12 months.

It’s not the first time AI has been put to use for this type of cancer. This month last year saw the development of an AI test which could hold the key to more targeted treatment of bowel cancer.