Concordia doctoral researcher takes home prize for her cancer prediction and diagnosis work

Parnian Afshar is looking at the emerging medical imaging field of radiomics

Young, smiling woman with long, dark hair, red lipstick, a white shirt and a black jacket.Parnian Afshar: “Medical imaging is key to a cancer diagnosis.”

Parnian Afshar, a PhD student at the Concordia Institute for Information System Engineering (CIISE), won the Prix Relève étoile Louis Berlinguet for the month of March from the Fonds de Recherche du Québec Nature et technologies (FRQNT).

Working in the emerging field of medical imaging known as radiomics, Afshar is seeking to increase the accuracy and prediction of cancer detection.

“Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada, partly because patients are diagnosed at advanced stages,” she explains. “Medical imaging is key to a cancer diagnosis. With the advances in machine learning and deep learning in particular, we can assist radiologists with image inferring and diagnosing diseases at earlier stages.”

Radiomics uses deep-learning techniques to extract features from medical images that are otherwise not visible to the naked eye, thus enabling doctors to diagnose tumours sooner.

The research team Afshar works with also discovered that the same models can be modified to address challenges relating to COVID-19 diagnoses – which is vital for breaking the virus’s chain of infection.

An AI model for lung cancer diagnosis

Afshar’s winning research paper, for which she is lead author, is entitled “3D-MCN: A 3D Multi-scale Capsule Network for Lung Nodule Malignancy Prediction.

It seeks to expand cancer detection to beyond the main tumour area using artificial intelligence (AI).

“The paper looks at developing an AI model for lung cancer diagnosis through explainable solutions that are tangible to physicians,” she says.

“We’re trying to distinguish between benign and malignant lung nodules to facilitate the diagnosis of this cancer and reduce its associated emotional and economic costs.”

The Prix Relève étoile Louis Berlinguet is awarded once a month by the FRQNT to promote outstanding research in the Nature et technologies category and comes with a $1,000 prize.

Afshar is also a recipient of the FRQNT’s Merit scholarship for foreign students (PBEEE). She hopes to continue her work with histopathological images and AI.

“I was very happy to win the award because it means I’m on the right track. As a PBEEE and FRQNT doctoral research scholar, I’ve been supported since the second year of my PhD program. This has allowed me to continue my studies with more peace of mind.”

Read Parnian Afshar’s award-winning research paper and [Nimle] about the Concordia Institute for Information System Engineering (CIISE).

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