For Claimants pursuing actions in relation to the delayed or missed diagnosis of cancer, it can be a significant hurdle to prove that with earlier diagnosis their cancer would have been at a different staging and that their prospects for treatment, or even survival, would have been better.
The question of how quickly a tumour grows is controversial and a source of dispute between experts. There is no widely held consensus on how to model this as there is a lack of accurate data on how tumours grow in humans. As a result most models are based on laboratory or animal testing which can be open to criticism.
From a clinical perspective, tumour growth rates are important in setting screening programmes and diagnostic protocols. However for Claimant’s the lack of consensus poses a difficulty in litigation as it is inevitable that opposing parties will interpret uncertainty in their own favour. The consequences for a Claimant being unable to prove to the necessary standard what the size of their tumour could have been at certain time in the past when it should have been diagnosed can present a major difficulty in establishing a causative outcome of any negligent treatment.
It is therefore of interest that steps are being taken to look at new models which can provide more accurate tumour growth rate predictions.
The science journal Nature, recently published the research findings of a group headed by cancer research UK which has been using the REVOLVER software to identify evolutionary patterns in cancer groups. The paper can be found here https://www.nature.com/articles/s41592-018-0108-x.epdf? .
Widely reported as a form of Artificial Intelligence, the software processes the data and strips out misleading information and adapts to variables to produce a more accurate projection for disease progression.
If this method is effective, then it is hoped that it would offer a robust method for retrospectively predicting tumour growth sizing and if so, this could be useful tool for resolving disputes in claims.