Imaging Informatics: AI Helps Drive Clinical Trial Imaging
By Susan Wood, PhD
Radiology Today
Vol. 24 No. 6 P. 28

Incorporating imaging into clinical trials has traditionally been cumbersome and complex. Rigid protocols for clinical trials often differ from the requirements of standard clinical scans, and the technology systems used in clinical trials are typically not the same as those used in daily practice, significantly increasing the learning curve from one setting to another. Yet imaging data are highly valuable in measuring a new therapy’s impact. Furthermore, the emergence of AI and large, rich datasets that can be mined for insights may lead to more targeted, effective therapies for patients.

Clinical trial imaging presents an attractive opportunity for imaging centers and radiology departments to provide more care options to patients and generate additional revenue streams for their organizations. Today, thanks to advances in technology and thoughtfully designed workflow support, incorporating imaging into clinical trials and securing the participation of more imaging sites is more operationally viable than ever.

Easing Complexities
Proper personnel training, scanner calibration, and compliance with scanning protocols are critical for image quality but can be difficult to operationalize across trial sites with the consistency that’s required. This issue has led to clinical trial imaging being centralized, often at large academic centers that are well equipped and have experienced staff. Fortunately, technology is helping streamline many of the core processes mandated by stringent trial requirements and creating opportunities for imaging providers and patients alike. Its promise is best evidenced by success in respiratory trials where both simplifying and systematizing the use of imaging across trial sites has given regional imaging centers a new revenue stream to support growth and increased access for patients. The disciplined process that is delivering value in respiratory therapeutics can also be replicated for other disease states.

Technological Advancements
Specifically, AI and cloud technology are being harnessed to equip more sites worldwide with the needed imaging training, functionality, and workflow support for participation in trials. These new sites are contributing to the success of decentralization efforts that are beneficial to all stakeholders, and these benefits expand exponentially at scale. If more radiology departments and imaging centers can support clinical trial imaging, it means that trials no longer need to be centralized in large academic medical centers that may be out of reach for many patients. Instead, clinical trial participation is increasingly available within broader communities leading to more diverse and representative trial participation and more equitable therapeutic availability and outcome representation.

This technology has already effectively empowered hundreds of smaller, more remote imaging centers to be certified for respiratory clinical trials. Further, as precision imaging is leveraged by more therapy developers in clinical trials, the incentive to become a validated trial site only increases as trials decentralize. But with more sites and radiology professionals operating under strict trial protocols, workflows that standardize the process and address some of the most common operational difficulties become critical.

Bolstering Efficiency
Cloud-based trial imaging management platforms infused with AI and smart workflows are making clinical trial imaging participation for sites much easier— enabling new levels of both accuracy and efficiency. By streamlining staff training, image data collection, quality assurance, curation, and management, sites can more confidently comply with protocols and become seasoned in orchestrating high quality, reliable trial imaging. These platforms can also simplify data access and data flow using intelligent automation for important but labor-intensive tasks like deidentification, file parsing, and case report forms.

By incorporating the right technology from the start, radiology teams can quickly become fully operational, high-performing trial imaging sites, creating opportunities and driving value for all involved.

The Bottom Line
Technological advances are enabling high-quality clinical imaging capture and intelligence that can accelerate the delivery of life-saving therapies to patients. Success to date in respiratory trials has given regional imaging centers a new role in the decentralized clinical trial landscape; trial sponsors reliable, representative clinical data; and patients the opportunity to participate in trials they otherwise may not have been able to access. This win-win-win translates to clinical imaging intelligence that can make a material impact on bottom lines and human health. 

— Susan Wood, PhD, is president and CEO of VIDA Diagnostics. She has more than 25 years of experience championing clinical intelligence solutions for routine clinical use.