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  • Writer's pictureCarley Batley

University of Cambridge Professor Evis Sala launches cancer screening AI start-up Lucida Medical.

Co-founders Professor Sala and Dr Antony Rix have developed cancer screening AI software using radiogenomics, machine learning and image processing to analyse MRI scans. While MRI is now the preferred technique for assessing a range of cancers, the current process of interpreting oncological MRI is labour-intensive and requires specialist training. Lucida Medical’s goal is to use this technology to find cancer more accurately, saving radiologists time, and enabling patients to receive the best possible diagnosis and treatment.

The initial focus in developing and implementing this technology will be prostate cancer. Founders Professor Sala and Dr Rix believe that Lucida’s tech is especially well-placed to make a significant impact on patient care in prostate cancer due to an international shortage of radiologists with expertise in prostate MRI interpretation. They said, “we believe that our tool can assist the less experienced radiologist to produce a high-quality report and the experienced one to achieve this in less time, leading to improvement in the quality of care as well as cost savings. Furthermore, our team has excellent combined technical and radiological expertise in prostate cancer.”

According to co-founder Dr Rix, 1.3 million people are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, with 360,000 fatalities from the disease. In a talk on Lucida Medical’s software at the European Society of Medical Imaging Informatics (EuSOMII) Virtual Annual Meeting in October 2020, Dr Rix explained that the software helps automate labour-intensive tasks, resulting in performance comparable to reporting by expert radiologists.

A study presented at the European Congress of Radiology (ECR) in March 2021 showed that Lucida Medical’s AI technology has the potential to reduce human error in diagnosis from MRI data, cutting missed cancers from 12% to 7% and unnecessary biopsies from 55% to 24%. The company also aims to democratize access to high quality screening services by operating outside of leading institutions and targeting high risk demographic groups. Lucida’s founders have plans to introduce their technology at both academic and district general hospitals in the UK. They are already working with a hospital in Italy and hope to expand their studies and customer pilots around the world.

The Lucida founders have ambitious plans for the future of their AI tech; their second product will focus on whole-body MRI as an early cancer detection tool. While MRI is an attractive tool as it’s radiation-free and non-invasive, the volume of images produced in a whole-body scan (up to 5,000) has been a barrier to its usefulness in early detection. However, Lucida’s AI technology offers a way to reduce the labour involved in interpreting these images. Dr Rix said, “Our aim is to help radiologists find cancer even when it is asymptomatic, when treatment is easier. This should transform outcomes for patients.”

Lucida Medical recently attracted a multi-million-pound investment from a group of investors led by XTX Ventures and Prostate Cancer Research. This investment will be used to extend the team, achieve regulatory approvals for their technology, and complete a 2,000-patient clinical study.

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