Depina Kontos, PhD, awarded the 2024 Edmée Firth Prize for Outcomes Research in Ovarian Cancer

Despina Kontos, PhD, principal investigator

Despina Kontos, PhD, professor of radiology and vice chair of artificial intelligence and data science research for the Department of Radiology at Columbia's Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons (VP&S), has been awarded the 2024 Edmée Firth Prize for Outcomes Research in Ovarian Cancer. The prize supports novel projects that develop new directions in ovarian cancer research.

Kontos, along with co-investigators Jason Wright, MD, Sol Goldman Associate Professor of Gynecologic Oncology and chief of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology at VP&S, and Elisa Konofagou, PhD, Robert and Margaret Hariri Professor of Biomedical Engineering and professor of radiology, will receive $50,000 for their project, “Artificial-Intelligence Augmented Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer from Transvaginal Ultrasound”. Shikun Wang, PhD, assistant professor of biostatistics at CUIMC, is also a collaborator on the project.

The project addresses the need for a better tool to evaluate ovarian cysts using transvaginal ultrasound (TVUS), the most commonly utilized imaging tool for this purpose. TVUS is highly operator dependent, and its non-specific findings make the detection of features that predict ovarian cancer challenging and subjective. Kontos and her team will develop and validate an artifical intelligence-based algorithm to accurately classify the risk of malignancy in ovarian cysts.

Co-investigators Elisa Konofagou, PhD; Jason Wright, MD; Shikun Wang, PhD

Ovarian cancer, one of the leading causes of cancer death in women, is often diagnosed late because it is asymptomatic at its earliest stages. Artificial intelligence has the potential to overcome challenges with ovarian cancer detection at an early stage.

"Our approach leverages novel computational approaches to help improve early detection of ovarian cancer," said Kontos, who is also chief research information officer for CUIMC. "This work will generate the much-needed phase I-II data for a larger, multi-institutional study to validate the implementation of this algorithm into direct clinical practice."

The Edmée Firth Prize was launched in 2021 by Columbia's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and is supported by the Jean and Louis Dreyfus Foundation. The prize is meant to reduce the burden of ovarian cancer and improve outcomes for women with the disease. Kontos is the third recipient of the award.