BraTumIA is an actively tested innovative 3D technology that provides doctors with a superior picture of a brain tumor with the potential of improving tumor diagnosis accuracy and reducing costs.
Healthcare systems today can be improved dramatically
through information technology such as the invention
of the Brain Tumor Image Analysis computer program
(BraTumIA). This innovative technology has been developed
by a team of doctors and engineers at the University
Hospital Bern and University of Bern in Switzerland.
BraTumIA is a software tool which, within minutes, can analyze
the volume of a malignant brain tumor in a 3D perspective,
accurately measuring not only tumor volume but also the
position of the pathology in the patient’s brain. This is a
significant development in brain imaging technology that will
empower doctors and has the potential to facilitate diagnosis
and treatment monitoring while reducing health care costs.
It enables doctors to monitor the tumor volume over time
in a quick and accurate manner—this is especially important
while the patient is undergoing chemotherapy as it can visually
show any change in tumor growth. When you consider the side
effects of chemotherapy, a tool showing the effectiveness of any
chemotherapy treatment can have a tremendous impact on the
type or duration of the treatment. This can reduce costs and/or
increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy treatment.
Typically radiologists get Magnetic Resonance Imaging
scans (MRI) of a patient’s tumor, which are a pile of two-dimensional
images. “The appearance of gliomas in MR images
can vary greatly, which renders their radiological analysis very
challenging. Consequently, clinicians usually apply standardized
two-dimensional measures instead of outlining the complete
tumor in a three-dimensional fashion to capture tumor size.
The latter, when performed manually, is quite cumbersome, it
takes hours and can differ from clinician to clinician making the
interpretations subjective. BraTumIA instead performs tumor
volumetry within five minutes, and most importantly always
does it in a consistent manner, so chances for error decrease
significantly,” says Raphael Meier, one of the main developers
of BraTumIA, a PhD Candidate at the Institute for Surgical
Technology and Biomechanics at the University of Bern.
“The three-dimensional measurement of tumor size, called
tumor volumetry, is usually desired but difficult to obtain,” says
Meier. In clinical studies, volumetry was shown to be superior
when compared to two-dimensional measures. The tumor
volumetry, presented by BraTumIA program, automatically
marks every pixel in an image, detects whether it is a tumor
or not and examines it on a three-dimensional basis. Thus,
relieving doctors from performing the task manually.
In the output of the computer process a doctor obtains
information about the volume of the tumor and the exact
location in the brain. “Currently it is the only program that’s
publicly available and can be downloaded for free and works
without the need for human support,” says Meier.
According to the specialist, BraTumIA will not replace the
clinician, but can assist him and save up to two hours of work,
which gives the opportunity for a doctor to spend more time
on other relevant tasks. But, accuracy is still of paramount
importance and at the end the clinician will look at the output
of the software and double check it.
Even more BraTumIA could also benefit patients suffering
from multiple sclerosis, measuring multiple sclerosis lesions,
and those who have suffered stroke. The interdisciplinary team
in Bern is currently working on these two future versions of the
It is expected, for multiple sclerosis, BraTumIA could
provide precise analyses of inflamed brain tissue in the white
brain matter (plaques). With stroke patients the software will
serve the purpose of risk analysis—to determine which parts of
the brain are likely to remain damaged subsequent to treatment.
BraTumIA has been tested in the research departments of
more than 80 institutions worldwide including NHS Foundation
Trust and the University of Dundee in the UK.
According to Professor Roland Wiest, Neuroradiologist
and Leader of the Support Centre of Advanced Neuroimaging
at the Bern University Hospital, “The precision segmenting of
the tumor tissue is enabling us to use the image information
to optimize the treatment on an ever more precise basis. This
is hugely important, as new treatment strategies for gliomas—
malignant tumors—can receive exact information on the growth
data concerning the tumors.”
The tool was primarily designed for segmenting preoperative
images, however, as Raphael Meier says, “The project intends
to extend the software’s capability to segment postoperative
images and then images overtime.”
The project was started several years ago by researchers
Roland Wiest, Stefan Bauer and Mauricio Reyes, as part of
Stefan Bauer’s PhD thesis. After completion of the thesis,
the work has been continued by Raphael Meier (Institute for
Surgical Technology and Biomechanics).
Current development of BraTumIA also benefits from
contributions of master’s students who are pursuing their
theses within the project group.
Based on request BraTumIA is made available to researchers
and clinicians at no charge go to https://sites.google.com/site/stefanpbauer/home/research/bratumia