Researchers develop Selfie app to "spot early signs of pancreatic cancer"
| Updated Sep 01, 2017 at 6:02am
A team of medical clinicians and computer scientists have teamed up to create an app designed to spot early signs of pancreatic cancer.
The disease, which killed Apple's co-founder Steve Jobs, is one of the hardest types of cancer to treat, but detecting and treating it early can make a big difference to survival rates.
The BiliScreen app is still in development at the University of Washington but is due to be presented at a computing conference later this month.
Pancreatic cancer has one of the worst prognoses — with a five-year survival rate of 9 percent — in part because there are no telltale symptoms or non-invasive screening tools to catch a tumor before it spreads.
Now, University of Washington researchers are developing an app that could allow people to easily screen for pancreatic cancer and other diseases — by snapping a smartphone selfie.
BiliScreen uses a smartphone camera, computer vision algorithms and machine learning tools to detect increased bilirubin levels in a person’s sclera, or the white part of the eye. The app is described in a paper to be presented Sept. 13 at Ubicomp 2017, the Association for Computing Machinery’s International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing.
One of the earliest symptoms of pancreatic cancer, as well as other diseases, is jaundice, a yellow discoloration of the skin and eyes caused by a buildup of bilirubin in the blood. The ability to detect signs of jaundice when bilirubin levels are minimally elevated — but before they’re visible to the naked eye — could enable an entirely new screening program for at-risk individuals.
In an initial clinical study of 70 people, the BiliScreen app — used in conjunction with a 3-D printed box that controls the eye’s exposure to light — correctly identified cases of concern 89.7 percent of the time, compared to the blood test currently used.
SOURCE: BBC News