New collaboration between Aidence and AstraZeneca supports early lung cancer diagnosis using AI

Aidence today announced a new strategic collaboration with global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. This collaboration will provide Aidence’s AI solutions to hospitals across Europe to enable and increase early lung cancer diagnosis through better detection and follow-up of incidental pulmonary nodules (IPNs). The earlier healthcare providers can detect lung cancer, the greater the opportunity to cure patients.

Incidental pulmonary nodules

IPNs are abnormal growths in the lungs found on imaging scans taken while investigating or diagnosing another health condition. The majority of IPNs are benign, but some are cancerous and can be overlooked, misinterpreted, or not appropriately followed up for further testing. Approximately 20-30% of lung computed tomography (CT) scans will find incidental nodules.

Better identification and appropriate follow-up of IPNs are necessary steps towards increasing the diagnosis of lung cancer at early stages. However, rates of follow-up are persistently low for these patients. One recent study found that only 36% of patients in the US with an identified IPN received any subsequent follow-up.

Prof Edwin Van Beek, radiologist at the University of Edinburgh and member of the Steering Committee, explains:

“Incidental pulmonary nodules are a major contributor to medical procedures. Although the majority will not be cancerous, sufficient numbers of patients will have cancer detected in this way. A uniform approach and better characterisation of these nodules is vital for patients as well as for the economic use of healthcare.”

Detecting incidental pulmonary nodules (IPNs)

Aidence’s AI

Aidence has been handpicked for this project following the company’s track record of successful AI deployments. Aidence’s Veye Lung Nodules is running in routine practice and lung cancer screening across Europe, analysing thousands of scans each week. Veye automatically detects, measures, classifies and tracks the growth of pulmonary nodules as small as 3 mm.

In addition to providing benefits for patients, Veye Lung Nodules can improve efficiency and quality of care by enabling faster detection, reporting information, reducing unnecessary follow-ups and acting as a ‘second pair of eyes’ for radiologists. All of these benefits are associated with potential cost savings.

Aidence is also developing an application that facilitates guideline-based follow-up for patients with identified IPNs based on established clinical guidelines to ensure timely diagnosis and treatment.

The IPN-AI project

AstraZeneca will fund a pilot phase of implementing Aidence’s solutions in 2021 before expanding to a planned 25-30 European hospitals next year.

An external Steering Committee will support the collaboration. This includes developing a protocol to optimise the early lung cancer detection pathway through collaboration with scientific societies, establishing lung nodule clinics, supporting improved patient communication for follow-up, and educating healthcare practitioners and patients.

Prof Joachim Aerts, pulmonologist at Erasmus MC Rotterdam, Board Member at The International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC), and chair of the Steering Committee, said:

“The potential of AI to detect nodules and support clinical teams in determining the probability of cancer could help to save lives and to work more effectively. Alongside funding the implementation of this technology, a dedicated Steering Committee will develop a protocol to change behaviour and optimise the lung cancer care pathway, working closely with the radiology community. I am pleased to chair this project together with Prof Giorgio Scagliotti from the University of Turin.”

Jeroen van Duffelen, Aidence co-founder and Chief Business Officer, added:

“In partnership with AstraZeneca, we will deliver a one of a kind project implementing AI in clinical practice at scale, aiming to screen roughly 450.000 patients for early-stage lung cancer. In doing so, we will both demonstrate AI’s impact on early lung cancer detection and give many patients a fighting chance. 

We believe AI-enabled oncology pathways can transform cancer care and are enthusiastic to team up with a leading pharma company who shares our ambitions.”

Data collection on the number of actionable nodules found, lung cancer diagnoses, and the stage of disease at diagnosis will be crucial to determine the success of the project. The Steering Committee will gather, review and publish aggregated data periodically, to assess the impact of the software and act on initial learnings.

About AstraZeneca

AstraZeneca is a global, science-led biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines. The partnership with Aidence is testament to AstraZeneca’s ongoing commitment to supporting healthcare systems globally in achieving better outcomes for people with lung cancer, including as a founding partner of the Lung Ambition Alliance.

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