A team of professors and students from the University of Michigan College of Engineering and the Medical School recently made breakthroughs in a study to create guidelines for urologists to use when deciding whether or not newly-diagnosed prostate cancer patients should be recommended for bone scans and/or computerized tomography scans.

The study used data from the Michigan Urological Surgery Improvement Collaborative, which includes about 90 percent of urologists in Michigan.

In an email interview, Selin Merdan, a Ph.D. candidate in Industrial and Operations Engineering and researcher in this collaborative study, said clinical guidelines state bone and CT scans are necessary only in cases where patients have “certain unfavorable characteristics,” but there currently is no agreement regarding the best uses of scans for men who are newly-diagnosed prostate cancer patients.

“Our work involved developing predictive models to design guidelines to determine which patients should receive an imaging test and which patients can safely avoid imaging based on their individual risk factors,” Merdan wrote.

The results of the collaborative study have helped to reduce negative effects of excessive scans and improve the detection rate of metastatic cancer.

Brian Denton, professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering and Urology, served as a supervisor throughout the process, and stated in an email interview the guidelines created from the study have been implemented by MUSIC, and have had successful results.

“Results following implementation show that the number of diagnostic tests ordered have gone down significantly and the rate of detection has gone up,” Denton wrote. “In other words a lot of tests that unnecessarily burden patients have been eliminated.”

The work completed by researchers has seen other positive effects as well. According to the Michigan News, the reduction in scans has saved both patients and insurance companies roughly $275,000. More importantly, it is estimated that millions of prostate patients could be spared from painful follow-up treatments because of the use of more selective diagnostic scans.

Along with the criteria instituted by MUSIC for administering bone and CT scans, publications from the study have also been referenced in the recent National Comprehensive Cancer Network guidelines, an acknowledgment researchers hope will influence national policy.

“The biggest takeaway from this work is that we can improve the efficiency and quality of healthcare delivery by influencing clinical policy making through the development of new engineering approaches combining optimization and statistics,” Merdan wrote.

LSA junior Emma Bergman, a member University’s chapter of Phi Delta Epsilon medical fraternity, stated while studies like these are important in helping individual patients reduce the amount of unnecessary time and money they spend, she feels it is also important that members of society continue to remain aware of progress such as this so as to understand the options for issues that may one day affect them.

“I think it’s easy to not pay attention to things when they don’t directly affect you but the truth is anyone can get cancer, anyone can get some sort of illness,” Bergman said. “It’s really important that you know how the science is developing and you know how it might impact you later on."

 

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