Grant of $7.44m to help develop AI to detect post-surgery cancer cells – Med-Tech Innovation

Perimeter Medical Imaging has received a $7.44 million grant from CPRIT, a state body funding cancer research, to continue developing its artificial intelligence technology that can help surgeons identify if cancer is still present post-tumour removal surgery.  

The sponsored technology, known as OTIS, is designed to provide real-time information during breast cancer surgery. The platform’s ability to deliver ultra-high resolution and sub-surface image volumes across the surface of the removed tissue allows surgeons to assess if they have achieved the successful removal of the entire tumour. Should a surgeon identify cancerous cells at the surface of the tissue, they can immediately remove additional tissue from the patient. 

The first stage of the three-year project will focus on training and testing the AI algorithms with data collected from four pathology labs in Texas: MD Anderson, Baylor College of Medicine, UT Southwestern and UT Health San Antonio. Specially installed OTIS devices will collect image data of breast tissue samples from approximately 400 patients to develop the software model using machine learning, which is adept at interpreting imaging data when labelled effectively. A multi-site pivotal study will be conducted during the second stage to test the new technology against the current standard of care and assess the impact on the re-operation rate for patients undergoing breast conservation surgery.

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and the leading cause of cancer death among females, accounting for 23% of total cases. The total cost to treat breast cancer patients in Texas is $250,000,000 per year. While breast conservation surgery is the leading approach to removing breast cancer tumours, approximately one in four patients return for a second surgery due to cancerous tissues being left behind. This is mostly because it normally takes several days to receive tissue analysis from the pathology department.

Dr. Alastair Thompson, a surgical oncologist and one of the principal investigators, said: “We need to work smarter to reduce the reoperation rates for breast conservation surgery. Using OTIS to scan the surface of the lumpectomy during surgery could be the key to ensuring complete surgery the first time around.”

Dr. Savitri Krishnamurthy, another principal investigator with over two decades of experience in pathology, added: “The new era of tissue imaging using optical imaging platforms such as the OTIS will bring revolutionary changes to breast surgery and breast pathology practice.”

Andrew Berkeley, the co-founder of Perimeter Medical Imaging and program director of the grant, says the funding will help the company to expand its operations and hire new staff members over the duration of the project and beyond within Texas.

He said: “We strongly believe in our mission to improve outcomes for breast cancer patients undergoing surgery. This CPRIT award is a significant and positive reinforcement to our company and will give us the opportunity to further advance our technology and perhaps be the initial push towards new applications in other areas of cancer. The award will allow us to hire both Clinical and Technical expertise and conduct clinical research and trials at internationally recognised cancer care centers throughout the state.”

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