Giant touchscreen helping in the battle against cancer

A giant touchscreen computer for junior doctors and medical students to study tumours in fine detail is the latest weapon in the battle against cancer for Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre has funded the 55-inch wide screen for the teaching of histopathology speciality trainees and medical students from the University of Oxford and the 500 researchers and clinicians that make up the Oxford Centre.

It allows users to “pinch and pull images” to identify the features of tumours that could predict their prognosis.

Until now, junior doctors and medical students have had to use microscopes linked to other microscopes used by teachers.

With the new technology, users can manipulate images – which are sent to the hospital pathology department – by zooming in and out and moving and rotating the images.

It is hoped the technology will improve the teaching of junior doctors and medical students so they can provide the best possible cancer diagnosis to patients.

The £25,780 computer has been funded by the Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre and draws on more than 400 scanned images from Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust patients.

The first session took place on February 23 for urological pathology to prepare histopathology registrars for upcoming fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists’ exams.

Dr Clare Verrill, Senior University Lecturer in Pathology, who taught the first session: “Having this digital screen, enables a new and exciting way of teaching where learners and teachers are able to interact with the images and makes for stimulating and interesting discussions .

With an increasing trend for use of digital pathology images for routine diagnostics as well as research, histopathology registrars will be better equipped for modern pathology practice.

Histopathology speciality trainee Dr Andrew Smith said: “Histopathology training is driven by practical experience – you have to look at a lot of cases to learn how to recognise tumours for what they are.

“Having access to cases digitally and in high resolution means you can learn from a case even when the slides for that case are not available in the department.

“I think using interactive technology in this way also makes the subject more accessible. Hopefully it will inspire more medical students and junior doctors to pursue a career in histopathology.”

Dr Claire Bloomfield, Strategic Planning Lead at the Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre, said: “Supporting our future leaders in cancer diagnostic is a key aim for the Cancer Research UK Oxford Centre.

“Effective, detailed diagnosis is a key foundation in our vision of making cancer therapies more targeted to individual patients.”

Dr Áine McCarthy, Cancer Research UK’s science information officer, said: “This technology offers a unique way for junior doctors and medical students to study the art of histopathology, a hugely important area of medicine.

“By using state of the art technology, we’re offering these doctors and students better training which will benefit both them and patients in the future.”

If you’re an Oxford Centre member interested in using this resource, please email cancercentre@oncology.ox.ac.uk