Ibex Medical Analytics, a maker of cancer diagnostic software, in collaboration with UK’s LDPath, a provider of digital pathology services to England’s National Health Service (NHS), has started rolling out its clinical grade applications for prostate cancer detection in pathology for the first time in the UK.
Traditional pathology involves manual processes that have remained unchanged for years, with slides analyzed by pathologists using microscopes, and reporting often carried out on pieces of paper. But even as cancer rates have increased over the years, the number of pathologists globally is in decline.
The number of active pathologists in the US, for example, has plunged by some 17.5% between 2007 and 2017, putting the nation at a shortage, and a smaller workforce needs to handle a bigger workload, according to aMay 2019 study published in JAMA Network Open.
A shortage of pathologists in the UK has led to up to six-week waits in cancer diagnosis and, together with increased demand, is exerting tremendous pressure on pathology departments while raising concerns about diagnostic accuracy, Ibex said in a statement on Tuesday.
LDPath, which provides histopathological imaging and reporting services to 24 NHS trusts throughout the UK, including large teaching hospitals and district general hospitals, will integrate Ibex’s prostate solution into its digital pathology workflow.
The software developed by Ibex, which has received European approval, will use AI-based algorithms to analyze prostate biopsies at LDPath, comparing them with the pathologist’s diagnosis. LDPath pathologists will be alerted in the event of significant discrepancy between their diagnosis and the algorithm’s findings, “providing a safety net that helps minimize diagnostic errors in the lab by enhancing quality control,” the statement said.
“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,” said Joseph Mossel, Ibex Medical Analytics CEO and co-founder, in the statement.
The collaboration with Ibex will enable LDPath to be the “first UK pathology provider to integrate AI into the digital pathology workflow” to improve cancer diagnosis, said Sanj Lallie, director of operations at LDPath, in the statement. “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.”
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the need for advancing innovation and utilizing new technologies to improve patient care, he added. “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.”
Ibex, founded in 2016 by Chaim Linhart and Mossel, has raised $13.6 million from investors including Israeli VC firms aMoon Fund and 83 North and Dell Technology Capital and Kamet Ventures, according to the database of Start-Up Nation Central, which tracks the Israeli tech industry.
Besides the prostate-detecting software, Ibex has also developed tools to detect breast cancer in pathology. In 2018 the startup teamed up with Israeli healthcare provider Maccabi to detect misdiagnosed prostate biopsies.