Cutting-edge new technology can successfully classify the diagnosis and characteristics of common types of paediatric brain tumours, new research has found.
Through the use of weighted imaging, an advanced imaging technique, combined with machine learning (AI), a brain tumour’s type can potentially be classified without the use of biopsy.
This will enable to tumour to be characterised and then treated more efficiently, the UK study concluded.
The largest cause of death from cancer in children are brain tumours in the posterior fossa area of the brain. However, within this area, there are three main types of brain tumour, and being able to characterise them quickly and efficiently can be challenging.
Currently a qualitative assessment of MRI by radiologists is used, although overlapping radiological characteristics can make it difficult to distinguish which type of tumour it is, without the confirmation of biopsy.
In the paper ‘Classification of paediatric brain tumours by diffusion weighted imaging and machine learning’ – led by the University of Birmingham and including researchers from WMG, University of Warwick – researchers found that tumour diagnostic classification can be improved by using non-invasive diffusion weighted imaging, when combined with machine learning.
“If this advanced imaging technique, combined with AI technology, can be routinely enrolled into hospitals it means that childhood brain tumours can be characterised and classified more efficiently, and in turn means that treatments can be pursued in a quicker manner with favourable outcomes for children suffering from the disease,” says Professor Theo Arvanitis, Director of the Institute of Digital Health at WMG, University of Warwick and one of the authors of the study.
Diffusion weighted imaging involves the use of specific advanced MRI sequences, as well as software that generates images from the resulting data that uses the diffusion of water molecules to generate contrast in MR image.
An Apparent Diffusion Coefficient (ADC) map can then be extracted, analysed values of which can be used to give more information about the tumour.
The study involved 117 patients from five primary treatment centres across the UK, with scans from 12 different hospitals on a total of 18 different scanners, the images from them were then analysed and region of interests were drawn by both an experienced radiologist and an expert scientist in paediatric neuroimaging.
Values from the analysis of ADC maps from these images’ regions have been fed to AI algorithms to successfully discriminate the three most common types of paediatric posterior fossa brain tumours, non-invasively.
“Using AI and advance Magnetic Resonance imaging characteristics, such as Apparent Diffusion Coefficient (ADC) values from diffusion weighted images, can potentially help distinguish, in a non-invasive way, between the main three different types of paediatric tumours in the posterior fossa, the area of the brain where such tumours are most commonly found in children,” continues Prof Arvanitis.
Professor Andrew Peet, NIHR Professor in Clinical Paediatric Oncology at the University of Birmingham and Birmingham Children’s Hospital, adds: “When a child comes to hospital with symptoms that could mean they have a brain tumour that initial scan is such a difficult time for the family and understandably they want answers as soon as possible.
“Here, we have combined readily available scans with artificial intelligence to provide high levels of diagnostic accuracy that can start to give some answers.
“Previous studies using these techniques have largely been limited to single expert centres. Showing that they can work across such a large number of hospitals opens the door to many children benefitting from rapid non-invasive diagnosis of their brain tumour.
“These are very exciting times and we are working hard now to start making these artificial intelligence techniques widely available.”
New company launched to drive forward Parkinson’s research
Charity Parkinson’s UK is to launch a new company dedicated to driving forward research into Parkinson’s disease.
Vivifi Biotech has been created to lead and plan preparations for a new trial into the role of the restorative protein glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) in Parkinson’s.
Launched through the charity’s drug development arm, Parkinson’s Virtual Biotech, up to £800,000 will be invested over the next two years as efforts continue to find a life-changing new treatment for people living with the disease.
Plans for a new trial build on the initial groundbreaking clinical investigations in GDNF, the results of which proved inconclusive but did show some signs that the treatment may have started to regenerate participants’ dopamine-producing brain cells.
“The unwavering passion and determination of the GDNF participant group has ensured that the potential of GDNF, and the role of patients in research, has never been forgotten,” says Paul Jackson Clark, director of engagement at Parkinson’s UK.
“They’ve tirelessly campaigned, fundraised and shared their experience with us, enabling us all to get to this monumental point.
“We now have the chance to see if we can find a life-changing new treatment that people with Parkinson’s desperately need. There are still plenty of obstacles but this announcement gives us the opportunity to move things forward together.”
Parkinson’s UK was the major funder of the initial trial, which investigated whether boosting levels of GDNF could slow, stop or reverse the progression of Parkinson’s.
Tom Phipps was a participant in the GDNF trial.
“My outcome was as positive as I could have wished for, I feel the trial brought me some time and has delayed the progress of my condition,” he says.
“The trial participants have always believed in GDNF’s potential,” said Parkinson’s UK in their announcement.
“So have we and the other organisations involved in the trial.
“Some participants tell us they’re still experiencing the benefits, years on from undergoing this experimental therapy. We’ve been working with them since the end of the trial.
“Together, we want to make sure we’ve explored every option.”
Music group launched to support BAME community
A music group established to support people living with dementia, memory loss and brain injury has received funding to launch an online project for the South Asian and BAME community.
Leicester Musical Memory Box (LMMBox) was founded in July 2018, and since that time has grown from one group in the city to six, providing interactive music sessions for people of all ages and backgrounds, including a group specific to the South Asian community.
The group – which has two staff members who are fluent in Gujarati, Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu – aims to provide the local community with a supportive network and a safe space to explore the unique challenges that a brain injury may bring to individuals, as well as their families and carers.
The new online music project is named ‘Geet Sangeet’ – translated as ‘Songs Sung Together’ – and will incorporate music and cultural references specific to the South Asian community, led by group leader Beena Masand from LMMBox.
Each session will begin with gentle exercises to warm up the body and brain, followed by singing and discussion about various music, songs, and media.
Attendees will also receive their own ‘musical memory box’ in a bag to help increase the interactivity of the sessions.
The project has received funding from the new Local Connections Fund, and is in collaboration with Headway Leicester.
Music has proven benefits for people with memory problems or a brain injury, including enabling people to connect with past experience and enabling freedom of expression, confidence and independence.
Attendance at the groups also helps to improve mood and reduce feelings of social isolation.
“We know we are providing a vital service to our members and receive enquiries regularly,” says Kyle Newman, group leader and co-director of LMMBox.
“In spite of the lockdown, we are thrilled to be able to once again provide a culturally specific group for the South Asian community.
“We also know that the group leader needs to come from that community and have the music and cultural knowledge to be able to engage participants effectively.”
“We are delighted to collaborate with LMMBox and reach out to more people across Leicester who have been affected by brain injury,” adds Mary Goulty, service manager at Headway Leicester.
“There is a clear need for a support service within the BAME community and that’s why we launched our BAME group last year, which is providing a vital lifeline to brain injury survivors we support and their families.”
To contact LMMBox, visit www.leicestermusicalmemorybox.co.uk
For support with brain injury in the Leicester community, visit www.headwayleicester.org.uk.
Art Therapy offers an emotional outlet for those living with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
Masks not only allow us to hide our true feelings but to also express them without fear of judgement.
Being able to ‘hide’ one’s true self, may be a way, for others, to truly ‘show’ themselves.
For this reason, Chroma therapists began delivering Art Therapy sessions online to those living with a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in an attempt to help them express their emotions in a creative, non-threatening way.
A TBI can have devastating effects upon a person’s mental health, as well as physical, with emotional issues caused by significant, sudden changes in appearance and abilities.
Studies have found Art Therapy to be effective in helping TBI patients with emotional expression, socialisation, emotional adaptation to mental and physical disabilities, and communication in a creative and non-threatening way.1
Self-expression is fundamental in processing the effects of a TBI. Take a look at the image below.
On the left is the base mask. During the process of art therapy, across a number of sessions, the participant talks, reflects and begins to create ideas or metaphors which then get placed onto the base mask. Often this depicts the face he presents to the outside world, in contrast with the dual parts of to his inner personality including a bright peaceful side and a dark, tumultuous side.
Based on the sessions, Chroma therapists are better able to gauge the patient’s feelings, discuss the final piece and help the patient begin to process their emotions.
In effect, art therapy offers a creative gateway to communication and used in this way, tries to enable the participant to externalise their inner thoughts and feelings.
As a therapy, it has been shown to help reduce feelings of stress, promote creativity and imagination as well as increase self-expression, confidence and communication.
Chroma began delivering these sessions as a way to allow clients to reveal thoughts and feelings about themselves which they may find hard to express, or may not even be aware of, and which may be being expressed through more difficult behaviours.
They also create an opportunity for greater communication, allowing therapists to gain a deeper understanding of the client’s thoughts, anxieties and feelings.
Being able to express themselves creatively helps the client reveal their true feelings, which in itself can be cathartic – a relief to release their emotions, in a personal, safe space.
Chroma continues to deliver these sessions online to help reach as many TBI sufferers across the UK as possible in an attempt to help them begin to process their emotions concerning the effects the TBI had upon them, with the outlook to help improve their mental wellbeing which in turn will help promote a positive outlook to life and rehabilitation outcomes.
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