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The company's AI uses a patient’s own diagnostic information to map prostate cancer
About 1 in 8 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during their lifetime, and it's the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, behind only lung cancer. The current treatment for includes surgery, radiation, or active surveillance, which means monitoring via yearly biopsies, but these can can have serious consequences: with surgery or radiation, around half of men will lose their sexual and urinary function, and with surveillance, half will end up receiving further therapy within five years.
"The reason for this poor standard of care is that prostate cancer is diagnosed and treated largely as a whole-gland disease, despite prostate cancer being a predominantly localized disease," said Dr. Shyam Natarajan, co-founder and CEO of Avenda Health, an AI healthcare company focused on creating personalized prostate cancer care. The company recently announced a $10 million Series B round of funding led by VCapital, with participation from Plug & Play Ventures and Wealthing VC Club, bringing its total funding to $16 million.
"Newer diagnostics, including imaging and precision biopsy enable urologists to accurately find cancer, but until now the true extent of disease has been uncertain, leading to a one-size-fits-all approach."
Avenda Health, on the other hand, is all about personalization in cancer care, starting with the decision making for therapy. Its cloud-based platform, iQuest, leverages a patient’s own diagnostic information to map prostate cancer including extent of disease, and produces a cancer probability map with optimal treatment margins. This AI-enabled mapping platform then enables a doctor to treat locally in a doctor’s office under local anesthesia, thereby preserving quality of life.
To use the Avenda platform, physicians upload or sync a patient’s diagnostic imaging and pathology to iQuest, which then produces a map and plan for a patient’s unique cancer. At this point, the physician can use this information to help counsel their patient and decide together on the best course of action.
For those patients who are to receive focal therapy, they then generate a treatment plan which is synced with its ablation system, called FocalPoint, prior to the therapy. During treatment, the physician guides the ablation needle under ultrasound and image fusion to the planned locations. Finally, a sensor needle is inserted into the prostate and monitors treatment feedback in real-time.
At the 2022 American Urological Association annual meeting, a retrospective study of 50 patients showed iQuest improved tumor encapsulation over conventional treatment planning from 56 percent to 80 percent.
While FocalPoint is FDA cleared for soft tissue ablation, iQuest, and its use with FocalPoint, are not FDA cleared, meaning it is for investigational use only. The new funds will mainly be used for accelerating clinical development, conducting pilots, and initial commercialization efforts; once the company is fully commercial, it is targeting an initial market where it can potentially reach 400,000 patients every year.
Eventually, the company wants to expand beyond just prostate cancer, and into other areas of the body as well.
"Success for us is in bringing personalization and precision care to the prostate cancer patient that sees a community urologist - improving their cancer control and quality of life outcomes regardless of the therapeutic modality. Our ultimate goal is to move upstream in the care pathway and into other solid organ tumors," said Natarajan.
(Image source: avendahealth.com)
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