£1 million AI grant to improve cancer surgery

Hear from Mr Jonathan K. Makanjuola, consultant urological surgeon at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, [pictured below], on the importance of bringing surgeons and academics together across King’s Health Partners and his success winning an AI award from NHSX and the Department for Health and Social Care to improve cancer care.

Jonathan K MakanjuolaWhat is your current role and what can you tell us about your career up to this point?

I am a consultant urological  surgeon at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust , the postgraduate surgical simulation lead and  Deputy co-lead for Cancer and Genetics for year three students at King’s College London.

My career until this point has been interesting. I came to medicine via an unorthodox path. I was originally a software developer and project manager for a large Japanese IT company before going to Medical School at King’s College London. 

Can you tell us about any recent projects you have been working on?

I have always been interested in technology and IT and bringing the two worlds together. Recently I applied for a large National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) grant  which I was successful. It is an AI award run with NHSX and the Department for Health and Social Care. The award looks at AI in prostate cancer and prostate cancer multi-disciplinary team meetings. This is a large, two-year flagship King’s Health Partners project working in collaboration with Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts, Prostate Cancer UK and the AI Centre at King’s College London.

A bit of background on the project. Traditionally, all cancer patients we care for are discussed in a multi-disciplinary meeting, including their surgeons, radiologists, pathologists and nurses. A team of clinicians spend hours going through cancer cases to determine patient care, often up to 80 patients a week. We thought this could be improved because many of the cases we discuss are for patients we had not met before and this process was not a personalised, individual care approach. That’s where the idea for using AI to streamline patient cancer care came in. We thought that we could use AI software to highlight the more complex patient cancer cases sooner. The AI would also facilitate patient diagnosis by ensuring the latest guidelines are shared with the multi-disciplinary team. Also, patients are able to login to a portal to answer questions on cancer and quality of life questions. Based on their answers, the tool will allow recommended treatment plans and allow their surgeons /oncologists to have a more meaningful discussion about what they want for their cancer care.

Can you tell us more about your involvement with our Academic Surgery programme and the opportunities and benefits are of bringing together clinicians and academics in the surgical field?

Traditionally, in the NHS and academia, we have worked in silos, with people are doing their own fantastic work in their own departments, without much collaboration or permeation. With King’s Health Partners Academic Surgery, we all have one common goal, and that is improving academic and clinical surgery and bringing the next generation of surgeons together. By bringing people together, hearing different voices and encouraging diversity in surgery, we are really aiming to inspire the next generation of surgeons.

It is a fantastic programme. Prof Prokar Dasgupta has been instrumental  in bringing all the surgeons together in one unified voice across King’s Health Partners. Prokar is such an exceptional individual, and he has done a great job of bringing everyone together in a positive and meaningful way. It is a really positive programme and I am really happy to be a part of it, with a particular focus on my AI project mentioned earlier and what it can do to bring hospitals and departments together across King’s Health Partners.

How has your field changed over the past few years, and more recently, as a result of COVID-19?

In the past few years, urology  has been very technologically driven. I know, for example, Prokar brought robotic surgery to the field of urology  in the UK. Urologists are a very innovative group of people.

Unfortunately, the effects of COVID-19 have created a backlog of work. I think the themes going forward are how can we use technology to improve our productivity and improve patient outcomes as we recover from COVID-19.

What do you think the next few months and years holds for your work?

Over the coming months, we are bringing all the key stakeholders from Guy’s and St Thomas’ and King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trusts together to work on our AI in the prostate cancer project. We hope that in the next few years we have a working product that we can use across the whole south east London cancer network to benefit our patients. The sky is the limit really, if we can improve the way the technology works, we can roll this out nationally and internationally. It really is a novel piece of work and I am proud to be a part of King’s Health Partners Academic Surgery spearheading this initiative.

What advice would you give to aspiring surgeons in your field?

Keep chasing your dreams and eventually you will get where you want to be and I am living testament to that. Keep working hard towards your goals and do not give up. You may see success in me now in millions of pounds worth of grants, but it was not always like that for me. In my earlier career , I had applied for a research grants but was rejected. These kinds of things inspire you to move forward. Never give up.

The King's Health Partners Academic Surgery aims to facilitate outstanding surgical science collaborations, support hybrid surgical and implementation trials, improve education for the next generation of surgical trainees and inspire students aspiring to exciting surgical careers. Read more about its work.

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