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News Europe

Using the example of a larynx tumour, Prof. Andreas Dietz (left) and Dr Andreas Boehm explained the new program. (Photo: Yvonne Bachmann)
Mar 7, 2013 | News Europe

Head and neck cancer: New system simplifies treatment planning

by Yvonne Bachmann

LEIPZIG, Germany: Doctors and computer scientists from Leipzig have developed a system that makes it easier to plan treatment for head and neck cancer. The multimedia system collates patient data and processes it for use by the treating physicians.

The head and neck cancer mortality rate is high. In Europe, only four out of ten patients survive the first five years after diagnosis. Researchers at the University of Leipzig are well aware of these figures: “In recent years, we have treated more patients than ever before, yet the chances of survival are still the same,” said Dr Andreas Boehm, chief physician at the Department of Otolaryngology. This observation motivated the development of the new program.

Once a week, the doctors involved in the treatment of patients suffering from head and neck cancer meet for about half an hour and confer about what treatment is appropriate in each case. “In order to make the right decision, we need to do more than simply look at the patient and say we’ll do this and that,” said Prof. Andreas Dietz, director of the Department of Otolaryngology. “We have to obtain the most accurate diagnosis and offer the optimal treatment. If the first treatment attempt is not successful, the patient could be negatively affected.”

According to Dietz, treatment of head and neck tumours worldwide is not generally interdisciplinary. The doctors in Leipzig however adopt a different approach: ENT specialists, oncologists, pathologists, radiologists and surgeons all take part in the weekly tumour board review.

A new software program called Oncoflow, which was developed by ENT doctors and computer scientists from the Innovation Center Computer-Assisted Surgery at the University of Leipzig, simplifies the decision-making process for tumour board reviews significantly. Among other functions, the program processes lab results, test results, medical reports and image data from X-ray, MRI and CT scans. Together with other data, this is combined into 3-D tumour models. The program also calculates the size and extent of the tumour.

Previously, data was stored in various places. Bringing it together in one system provides an overview for tumour board reviews. A special function enables the doctors to vote for the appropriate treatment with a remote after the presentation. The aim of voting is not to come to a democratic decision, but to aid decision-making, according to Dietz. Oncoflow not only simplifies treatment planning, but also documents the process of decision-making; thus, the data is stored long term and can be retrieved.

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