The new apps will aid in improving the accuracy and increasing the efficiency of cancer diagnostics, the companies said.
Traditionally, cancer is diagnosed with the aid of a pathologist — an expert who will look at tissue samples under a microscope to identify changes associated with diseases. In recent years, the number of pathologists around the world has decreased, even as the global incidence of cancer has increased.
The limited availability of pathologists has ultimately resulted in diagnostic delays for many people with cancer. These delays are further exacerbated by the fact that a lot of traditional pathology reporting still is done using paper and ink, even in this digital age.
Further, having people — even trained experts — analyze tissue samples means that the analyses will be subject to human biases and errors. That raises the likelihood of improper diagnoses, especially with the increased pressure put on the limited number of working pathologists.
One solution to this problem is to implement AI-based approaches to tissue analysis. Essentially, that means using sophisticated algorithms to detect any pathological changes in tissue, as a pathologist would typically do.
“Cancer cases continue to rise, and with the pathology practice experiencing a worldwide shortage, AI-based technologies can drive new workflows for pathology that will be critical for improving cancer care practices for patients, pathologists, labs and entire healthcare systems,” Joseph Mossel, CEO and co-founder of Ibex, said in a press release.
Ibex’s Galen platform is an AI-based program for this purpose. A version of the platform specialized for prostate cancer — called Galen Prostate — has received CE marking, meaning it meets the high safety, health, and environmental requirements established by the European Commission.
With this new system, prostate cancer biopsies will still be analyzed and categorized by expert pathologists. But the pathologists will receive an alert in any case where there is a significant discrepancy between their diagnosis and the AI findings. This will provide a safety net that minimizes diagnostic errors, the companies said.
“We are proud to be the first UK pathology provider to integrate AI into the digital pathology workflow by partnering with Ibex to improve cancer diagnosis,” said Sanj Lallie, director of operations at LDPath. “This is a significant step in realizing the benefits of AI tools within the UK as we continue to redefine traditional workflows across our NHS network.”
Ibex also is “excited” to team up with LDPath, Mossel said.
This collaboration will “bring a paradigm shift for pathology in the UK, and around the world, increasing efficiency and improving accuracy of cancer diagnostics,” Mossel added.
In addition to being generally useful for cancer diagnoses, implementing AI-based diagnostics could be of particular value during the COVID-19 pandemic or similar future situations.
“The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need for advancing innovation and utilising new technologies to improve patient care,” Lallie said. “By using AI and digital pathology, we are better prepared to continue to work effectively during lockdowns, and handle the anticipated surge in the volume of tests and an increase of the pathology workload once we emerge from this pandemic.”