Two UK universities have announced they are developing intelligent systems to diagnose breast cancer after Theresa May’s calls to make artificial intelligence the new weapon against cancer.

In a two-year experiment, doctors at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust will use a ‘cutting-edge technology’ to analyse thousands of breast scans from MRI machines throughout the UK.

IntelliScan will be developed by Brunel University London, First Option Software and Teesside University.

It combines deep machine learning and advanced image-processing smart algorithms, and will automatically flag up key watch points on each potential case, which will let radiologists handle many more images faster and more accurately, and help save lives by detecting tumours earlier.

"The technique will provide unique information to support doctors during the diagnostic process," said Brunel University London’s Sergio Malo.

"And the machine learning algorithm will use the doctors’ feedback for further training and for continuous improvement of the detection tool across the UK."

IntelliScan's digital image processing and AI decision system will be developed at Brunel Innovation Centre, which specialises in developing algorithms for pattern, defect and anomalies detection, through modelling machine learning and image processing.

Once fully developed, the plan is to link the system to breast scans from all MRI systems UK-wide, so it can detect abnormalities and categorise them by severity. Its algorithms will also help doctors predict how well treatment will work on individual patients by comparing their consecutive scans.

Missed or late diagnosis is behind 20 per cent of cancer deaths in the UK, which has the some of the worst cancer survival rates in Western Europe.

Dr Jianxin Gao, director of Teesside University's Healthcare Innovation Centre, said: "This is an exciting project and one that could make considerable and positive changes to the healthcare sector – improving the accuracy and speed of breast cancer MRI analysis. Early detection is crucial to survival and this technology could help to save the lives of thousands of patients."

Professor Tat-Hean Gan, Brunel Innovation Centre's director, added: "The system integrates a series of visualisation, data processing, data communication and decision-support systems which will enable it to dramatically improve access to breast healthcare and cancer treatment compliance."

IntelliScan, which has received funding from Innovate UK, has the potential to generate £18.5m in revenues and £15.4m in profits by 2028 and create 49 direct and indirect jobs related to the outcome of the project.