Home Project DECIDE Achievements

DECIDE achievements

DECIDE ACHIEVEMENTSDECIDE is a European project within the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7). The project has developed a service which is based on the pioneering neuGRID e-Infrastructure, which offers a set of tools providing quantitative measurements, to help researchers and clinicians make more informed diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

The project, which began in September 2010 and is due to end in February 2013, includes among its partners internationally renowned researchers on Alzheimer’s disease.

Technical approach

The service is based on a secure and unique infrastructure of powerful computing resources, high-speed networks and international databases allowing clinicians to quickly upload, analyses and compare medical imaging data and enabling informed diagnoses. By making advanced, simple to use diagnostic tools available to clinicians across Europe, DECIDE enables support for the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, improving patient care and family planning.

Applications integrated in the DECIDE environment allow clinicians and researchers to perform the computer-aided extraction of diagnostic markers from patients’ data and medical images such as Positron Emission Tomography (PET), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), and Electroencephalography (EEG) scans, and explore a multimodal distributed reference databaseincluding 850 datasets from control subjects and 2,200 from neurological subjects. It is ahuge amount of data to analyse and its elaboration is possible because DECIDE brings together the power of research networks, distributed databases, powerful diagnostic algorithmsand grid computing. The diagnostic markers extracted provide clinicians and researchers with quantitative measures of the statistical deviation with respect to the control database, allowing a highly sensitive and specific early detection of the disease. The DECIDE service is available by using a simple web browser.

The clinicians, irrespective of location, will access the DECIDE portal through their web browser, upload the biomedical images of the patient and, by a simple click, let DECIDE securely handle the processing, protecting data confidentiality. Markers that have been associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease will be extracted and a detailed report will be returned to the clinician. The potential impact for clinical use and research of the proposed e-Infrastructure will be ona large scale by enabling clinicians from hospitals with no access to sophisticated computational algorithms, resources, and large sets of reference databases (images, EEG recordings) to carry outanalyses remotely and efficiently. This means that people with Alzheimer’s disease will benefit from a more appropriate inclusion in clinical trials, or advanced research therapies, given the better accuracy in early diagnosis.

Results

At present date, the project has achieved all key mid-term objectives, specifically:

  • All standards relevant to the different layers of the infrastructure (i.e., grid infrastructure and middleware, patient preparation, test execution, clinical practice) were identified, described and adopted
  • The Grid-based infrastructure is up and running, all needed services are installed at EGI official, certified, production sites, including some (AMGA, gLibrary, SecureStorage) specifically setup for the DECIDE VO
  • The reference databases have been designed and implemented, and populated with multi-modal data for patients of different classes: elderly normal subjects, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) converter and non converter, Alzheimer’s disease
  • The Science Gateway access portal was deployed and customized, and counts more than 60 users to date, for all application and roles, removing overlaps. It is important to note, in this respect, that the DECIDE service addresses a very specialized audience and that, in order to exploit it, it is necessary for users to undergo a training and a final examination that certifies their understanding of the usage of the tool and of its outcome
  • Five applications are available, for the analysis of PET images (brain functionality), EEG traces (neuro-physiology) and MRI images (brain-volumetry)
  • A training campaign is on-going, and dissemination activities led to presentation of the project to a number of stakeholders and key opinion leaders, generating expressions of interest and requests for involvement in the validation and usability test activities

Overall, the infrastructure and service were found very useful by users, and their feedback (on the content of reports, on the way results should be presented and on the general guidance offered by the site) has been taken into account for improving what currently provided.

Developments

Further extensions to the application portfolio are not foreseen through the end of the project due to the lack of time, within such timespan, to carry on an adequate training programme. In the longer term, however, this is one of our priorities, with the aims of providing a service which is more and more useful to our users and of attracting new ones. Along the same line we will exploit the flexibility of the infrastructure, to extend it along three dimensions:

  • Widening the application portfolio, including its extension to other pathologies, for example in the field of cardiology or oncology
  • Adding support for combining information from different reports: currently, all exams relevant to a patient are stored in the same “diagnostic session” (sort of a virtual folder), but no tool is provided at present to correlate the various pieces of information
  • Adding support for time-series, providing the possibility to compare the same kind of exams repeated after some time, for example after a period of rehabilitation, or to monitor series of clinical trials.

In part, this extension is already taking place, within the framework of new proposals which have been presented by partners of the project at national and European level, some of which have already been granted funding.

Long-term objectives

The main long-term objective of the project is providing European citizens with high quality early diagnostic and prognostic procedures, irrespective of their financial or social status and location. The project’s focus is thus more on the clinical community, and this brings specific constraints in terms of ease of use, standardization, security, data confidentiality, data distribution. The service offered to such community needs to be compatible with the clinical routine, and thus be simple to use, robust, reasonably fast and should not require too much interaction with the system: of course, it should have also been validated with real cases beforehand, to ensure accurateness. Moreover, the ethical and legal issues related to data handling, processing and distribution need to be specifically addressed.

DECIDE aims to become a reference in the landscape of similar initiatives at European level, which is often characterized by duplication and fragmentation of effort. For this reason, the service was designed to be flexible (to accommodate different needs) and extensible (to allow for the addition of new tools). In this respect, the project is also focused on ensuring the sustainability of the service, the training of users and the extension to new communities (and possibly, new pathologies).


neugrid

Seventh Framework Programme - Eurpean Commission

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