Internet makes international telepathology project possible

March 12, 2001

A new Internet project of the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) enables pathologists to exchange digital images, opinions, and state-of-the-art information in the field of tumor diagnostics on the World Wide Web. The UICC-Telepathology

A new Internet project of the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) enables pathologists to exchange digital images, opinions, and state-of-the-art information in the field of tumor diagnostics on the World Wide Web. The UICC-Telepathology Consultation Center (TPCC) service, aimed at improving and controlling the quality of histological and cytological diagnoses in tumor pathology, was officially launched recently in Berlin.

Although it is becoming more popular, point-to-point telepathology has been limited, due partly to the lack of a link between requests for assistance and expert panels. The UICC-TPCC service offers a solution in the form of rapid, continuous consultation over the World Wide Web.

"The idea of a UICC-TPCC is now a reality", said Dr. Manfred Dietel, who coordinates TPCC from the Charité University Hospital Institute of Pathology in Berlin. "This first center, which starts in Berlin at the Charité Hospital, works via the Internet and is thus available to every pathologist around the world."

Telepathology provides the ability to globally distribute new diagnostic standards (of the UICC-TNM system), World Health Organization terminology, international diagnostic standards (SNOMED/ICD-O code), and current information on actual technologies. Physicians whose patients exhibit infrequently seen complications can access a wealth of information and choose appropriate treatment.

Using the system, a requesting pathologist enters a new case, which is checked by a TPCC pathologist who then assigns it to the appropriate expert. One of the internationally recognized pathologists who have volunteered to serve as UICC tumor experts reads the images and makes diagnostic suggestions that are in turn transferred back to the UICC Consultation Center. The center forwards the case to the referring pathologist.

Replies are promised within three working days.

"Telepathology is now attainable independent of geographical distances, allowing a pathologist anywhere in the world to discuss and control diagnoses with an international expert," said Dr. Miklós Bodó, chairman of the UICC Detection and Diagnosis Program. "Time-consuming labor- and cost-intensive exchanges of specimens by post or other means of transportation can now be avoided."

All traffic is transferred over the Internet, using either Netscape's Navigator/Communicator or Microsoft's Internet Explorer. These Internet browsers are the most convenient tools for sending and receiving data, particularly pathology images.

The UICC program is concentrating on providing services to developing countries, offering local pathologists easy and time-saving access to high-quality histopathological diagnoses. UICC-TPCC will also focus on smaller institutes of pathology, particularly those in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. Local clinicians at these institutions can now obtain expert second opinions.

UICC has a growing roster of more than 50 experienced cancer experts. The consultation center approach may be expanded to other fields in the future, including teleradiology and tele-ultrasound. Details of the service are available at the UICC-TPCC Web site: http://www.uicc.org/.

Manfred Dietel, MD, UICC-TPCC, Institute of Pathology, University Hospital Charité, Berlin, Germany, ++49 30 2802-3871, manfred.dietel@charite.de.

Miklós Bodó, MD, chair, UICC Detection and Diagnosis Program, Institute of Pathology, University Hospital Charité, Berlin, Germany, ++49 30 2802-3871, miklos.bodo@charite.de.