New AI tool could cut cost of brain tumor diagnosis for millions in Nigeria 

Story highlights  

  • A new AI tool can diagnose brain tumours with 95% accuracy. 
  • This tool, called Deploy, uses deep learning to analyze histopathology images. 
  • It could significantly speed up diagnosis and improve outcomes in Nigeria. 

A new AI tool has been discovered to diagnose brain tumours with an astonishing 95% accuracy.

If marketed globally, this tool could help speed up the detection of brain tumours for many Nigerians.

According to the World Health Organisation, Nigeria recorded 1798 new cases of brain tumour, which were 50% more cases than the average five-year prevalence.  

Researchers from Australia and the United States, who introduced the tool, said the AI technology can classify brain tumors with 95% accuracy, significantly enhancing the speed and precision of diagnoses. 

The system, developed by the Australian National University and the National Cancer Institute in the US, utilizes deep learning to predict DNA methylation and categorize brain tumors into 10 major types.  

This innovation is expected to revolutionize the diagnostic process, which traditionally takes weeks, especially in settings where advanced DNA profiling is unavailable. 

Dubbed “Deploy,” this US-Australian collaboration utilizes AI to analyze histopathology images of patient tissue, as initially detailed in Nature Medicine. 

The report highlights  

Currently, many hospitals globally and in Nigeria lack the infrastructure for DNA methylation-based profiling, a process that typically takes weeks to yield results.  

  • According to Danh-Tai Hoang, a research fellow at the Australian National University, the introduction of AI-powered technology promises to significantly accelerate diagnostic procedures. 
  • Hoang emphasized the laborious nature of the current diagnostic approach, which often entails a waiting period of two to three weeks for test results.  
  • He noted that the introduction of Deploy holds promise for expediting the identification and treatment of brain tumors, particularly those of a high-grade nature. 
  • With an accuracy rate of 95%, researchers validated their AI model using extensive datasets comprising 4,000 patients from the US and Europe. 

Impact on Nigeria 

Brain tumors, although less common compared to other cancers, pose a significant health challenge globally, including in Nigeria.  

With an estimated incidence rate of around 6.2 per 100,000 people annually, brain tumor is a serious problem for Nigeria. 

This translates to approximately 12,400 new cases per year in a population of 200 million.   

In Nigeria, brain tumors are typically diagnosed using advanced medical imaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) scans and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).  

Nairametrics reports that the average cost of a brain MRI is approximately N80,000. 

Prevalence of brain tumors in Nigeria 

The prevalence and impact of brain tumors in Nigeria are marked by several factors, including diagnostic challenges and limited healthcare infrastructure. 

  • Incidence Rates: The incidence of brain tumors in Nigeria, while not comprehensively documented, aligns with global patterns, showing a higher prevalence among certain age groups, particularly adolescents and young adults. 

A study indicates that the incidence rate of brain tumors in Nigeria mirrors the trends observed in other African countries, with specific prevalence rates varying based on the type and location of the tumors. 

  • Common Types of Brain Tumors: Gliomas and meningiomas are among the most frequently diagnosed brain tumors in Nigeria.  

These tumors vary in their malignancy and impact on patient outcomes. 

Pediatric brain tumors, including medulloblastomas, account for a significant proportion of cases among children, posing unique treatment challenges. 

The Nigerian health scene 

Many hospitals in Nigeria lack the infrastructure for advanced diagnostic techniques like DNA methylation-based profiling, which is essential for accurately classifying brain tumors.  

This leads to delays in diagnosis and treatment, often spanning weeks. 

  • The introduction of AI-powered diagnostic tools, as seen in recent global advancements, could potentially mitigate these delays, providing faster and more accurate diagnoses. 
  • Nigeria’s healthcare system faces significant challenges, including a shortage of specialized medical professionals and inadequate facilities for treating complex conditions like brain tumors. 
  • The need for improved healthcare infrastructure is critical to managing the growing burden of brain tumors effectively.  
  • Enhancing diagnostic capabilities and treatment facilities is essential for better patient outcomes. 

Cost of diagnosing brain tumors locally and the role of AI 

Currently, the cost of diagnosing a brain tumor in Nigeria, particularly through MRI scans, can be prohibitive for many patients, averaging around N80,000 per scan.  

  • This cost can escalate when multiple tests and follow-up procedures are necessary.  
  • The integration of AI tools like Deploy could reduce these costs by streamlining the diagnostic process, reducing the need for repeated tests, and speeding up the time to diagnosis, which can also lower overall healthcare costs by initiating treatment sooner. 

Benefits to Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) in Nigeria 

For HMOs in Nigeria, adopting AI diagnostic tools offers several advantages: 

  • Cost Efficiency: Faster and more accurate diagnoses can reduce the overall cost of patient care by minimizing unnecessary tests and accelerating treatment initiation. 
  • Improved Patient Outcomes: Early and precise diagnosis leads to better treatment planning and outcomes, enhancing the quality of care provided to patients. 
  • Resource Optimization: AI tools can help HMOs optimize the use of medical resources, ensuring that diagnostic and treatment facilities are used more efficiently. 
  • Scalability: AI technology can be scaled across various healthcare settings, improving access to advanced diagnostic techniques even in remote or under-resourced areas. 

By integrating AI-driven diagnostics, HMOs can enhance their service offerings, improve patient satisfaction, and potentially reduce the financial burden of long-term care for brain tumor patients.  

More AI projects in healthcare 

A recent study highlighted the efficacy of AI-generated compounds, particularly within the pharmaceutical realm. Eli Lilly, in particular, has garnered attention for its successful integration of AI technology into drug discovery processes. 

Experts at Eli Lilly assert that AI’s unparalleled capacity to investigate millions of compounds within minutes far surpasses the output of traditional wet laboratories over the course of an entire year.  

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