Innovate. Invent. Experiment. In this series, Imperial alumni tell us what they are working on.
Dr Miles Payling (MBBS Medicine 2011)
C the Signs is a multi-platform tool that uses artificial intelligence to help doctors diagnose cancer at the earliest and most survivable stage of the disease. It’s an integrated tool, so it can be accessed within a patients’ electronic health records.
Cancer is often diagnosed based on late-stage features such as coughing up blood or significant weight loss. To pick it up sooner, you need to look at symptom combinations, but they can be difficult to tease out, as cancer can present in virtually any conceivable way. Our tool uses layers of artificial intelligence alongside a GP’s assessment to calculate whether a patient is at risk and, if so, what the next step should be.
When my co-founder Dr Bhavagaya Bakshi (BSc Medical Sciences with Management 2009) was training to be a GP, she met a patient in A&E with terminal pancreatic cancer. He’d seen his doctor several times but been misdiagnosed, and Bhavagaya told me that she might have done the same thing because it was so difficult to spot. We decided to try to make something that would be more simple for a GP to use within a consultation.
We want as many patients to survive cancer as possible, which means catching it early. Our aim isn’t to replace GPs but to help them make the best decisions for each patient in the relatively short amount of time they spend with them.
We’re currently commissioned in the NHS, covering a population of more than 2.5 million patients, and will be expanding significantly by the end of the year – we’re also looking at how the tool can be used in other countries. Cancer doesn’t just affect the patient, it’s also traumatic for their family, friends and work colleagues, so we think we can make a huge difference to patients’ lives and society in general.
Dr Miles Payling and Dr Bhavagaya Bakshi are the founders of C the Signs, an artificial intelligence cancer diagnosis tool for GPs that won the Medilink UK Healthcare Business Award for Collaboration with the NHS 2019.