A sophisticated £4m computer grid to help the fight against breast cancer is being developed by IBM, Oxford University and the government.
The eDiamond grid enables early screening and diagnosis, and will pool and distribute information on breast cancer treatment.
Many similar projects have used proprietary technologies, and the difficulty in interpreting X-rays has led to an alarming number of false/positive readings.
Other problems include X-rays stored in disparate locations or simply being lost.
Films stored on the eDiamond grid will be available in a standardised digital format that will be easier to read and evaluate.
Storing the images centrally will overcome the challenge of inconsistent image formats and lost films that prevent proper diagnosis.
This will lead to earlier and more accurate diagnoses, and the integrated analytical tools will let doctors compare current treatments and allow researchers to develop new ones.
Nicholas Donofrio, senior vice president of technology at IBM, said in a statement: "We're applying the vast computing power of a grid to create a massive digital 'photo album' of mammogram scans available to medical experts across the UK."
This is possible because the grid uses commercially available technologies as well as new software developed by Mirada Solutions, an Oxford University start-up, which is the key to standardising new and existing digital mammogram images.
Dr Max Wilson, director of operations at Mirada, explained that this will allow oncologists and radiologists to better understand changes within a patient's breast.
Surgeons and cancer specialists will have direct input into developing the grid over time.
Dr Wilson told vnunet.com: "This is a really exciting project that will help develop a better understanding of breast disease, and lead to earlier diagnosis and better treatments."
Launched a few weeks ago, the grid will initially link a large database of mammograms shared by leading cancer screening centres.
These comprise St George's Hospital and Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Trust Hospitals in London, the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, and breast screening centres in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
It will eventually cover all screening centres in the UK, creating a national archive.
The grid could also be linked to research and digital breast cancer screening programmes being developed around the world, such as those in the US at Case Western and Pennsylvania universities.
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