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Advanced Tech Innovations In Lung Cancer Care

Technological innovations are touted to be a game changer when it comes to detecting early-stage lung cancer.  The power of artificial intelligence to detect lung cancer will help patients go in for the best treatment modalities and prevent deaths.

India is grappling with higher incidences of lung cancer that have reached alarming proportions. With a huge population base and lifestyle changes to be blamed for, the country is on the cusp of various forms of cancer, lung cancer being the most prominent among them. The deadliest form of lung cancer has many times no symptoms during the initial phase making early detection the most potent form to fight it.

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Though nearly 90 per cent of the cases of lung cancer are due to smoking, even non-smokers are not spared. Recently Actor-comedian Kate Micucci was diagnosed with lung cancer even though the The Big Bang Theory actor never had a history of smoking.

Technology is playing an important role in the healthcare space when it comes to the early detection of various forms of cancer including lung cancer. Let us take a look at some of the new initiatives.

Tech adoption
Recently at the 2022 World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Annual Meeting in Davos, global biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca joined hands with the WEF EDISON Alliance, a partnership between commercial and non-profit sectors, to improve the lives of people through digital inclusion.

The power of artificial intelligence (AI) to screen for lung cancer risk was adopted as part of the AstraZeneca  EDISON Alliance health goals via a partnership with Qure.ai, a global leader in medical imaging AI. In addition, this novel approach is a fundamental component of AstraZeneca’s A.Catalyst Network, a network of solutions to improve patient outcomes, and the Lung Ambition Alliance, a global coalition with the bold ambition to eliminate lung cancer as a  cause of death.

Divya Gupta, Chief Growth Officer, Qure. ai mentioned, “The future of AI in treating lung cancer holds significant promise by enabling early detection. The proactive use of AI, particularly in chest X-ray analysis, enables the risk identification of nodules before symptoms manifest.

This approach, as evidenced by initiatives led by AstraZeneca and Qure. ai, signifies a paradigm shift in early risk detection strategies. By leveraging AI algorithms, routine X-rays can be screened efficiently, providing a low-cost, high-impact means of identifying individuals at risk.”

AI-powered chest X-ray analysis for the incidental detection of high-risk nodules that can be indicative of lung  cancer has been rolled out across resource-constrained regions. In another remarkable initiative, the National Health Mission and the Karnataka Health & Family Welfare Services signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with AstraZeneca Pharma India to deploy Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based lung cancer screening technology that will screen a patient for 29 lung diseases in one chest X-ray.

Hospitals where the technology will be deployed over next 12 months are the district hospitals at Bagalkote, Vijayapura, Dharwad, Gadag, Chkkaballapur, Chikkamagaluru, Chitradurga, Kalburgi, Ramanagaram, Tumkuru, Karwar, Udupi, Yadgiri, Haveri, Madikeri, Kolar, Koppal, Chigateri Hospital, Davanagere, Wenlock Hospital, Mangalore, K C General Hospital, Bangalore.

According to Dinesh Gundu Rao, Minister Health & Family Welfare Department, Karnataka, cancer can be treated with curative intent if detected early. Rao mentioned, “We are bringing this technology in all our district hospitals across Karnataka, and we strongly believe that this will emerge as the most beneficial way of detecting lung  cancer early and bringing down the financial and emotional burden of healthcare on patients especially who cannot afford even primary care.”

In another move, BiomarkIQ’s solution received a seed fund of Rs 17 lakh from Startup India. BiomarkIQ,   incubated at IISER Pune, has created a non-invasive tool by which vulnerable people can be treated. Manasi Khasnis, Co-Founder and CEO, Indian Institute of Science and Research (IISER) Pune says that early detection emerges as a key factor in improving survival rates in lung cancer. Along with Khasnis, Snahlata Singh and
Atarva Joshi have developed VarSee, a non-invasive and sensitive diagnostic tool that uses biotechnology to identify unique biomarkers of lung cancer. India-Sweden Healthcare Innovation Centre and its knowledge partner
AstraZeneca India have collaborated with the Directorate of Health Services (DHS) Jammu to integrate Qure.ai’s  mart artificial intelligent technology to detect lung cancer early on. Under the aegis of Indo Sweden Healthcare Innovation Centre (ISHIC), Mumbai-based startup Qure.ai is scaling up the integration of its artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chest x-ray interpretation tool that can benefit early and easy detection of lung diseases including lung cancer.

The collaboration with DHS Jammu is a significant example of how technology can be leveraged and simply  integrated in primary healthcare settings. The AI-powered chest X-ray is designed to distinguish lung nodules in under a minute and minimise the chances of lung cancers going undetected. Importantly, this tool is being accessed in primary care settings where X-rays are utilised most commonly.

Takeda Biopharmaceuticals India unveiled Athena, a digital health solution that enables remote patient data  capture and improved patient engagement for Anaplastic Lymphoma Kinase Positive (ALK+) Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer (NSCLC) patients, their caregivers, and healthcare professionals (HCPs). The MVP will consist of three elements: a device-agnostic app for patients, a Fitbit wearable device, and a web-based portal or PDF summary for HCPs. The functionalities of the Athena App MVP support tracking of passive and active metrics of Quality of Life (QOL) for NSCLC patients, HCPs, and researchers.

The patient-centred app enables remote tracking of symptoms, quality of life, medications, activity, and  educational content. Patients receive all tasks in a timeline and can add reminders, while also completing bespoke or validated questionnaires such as EQ5D5L. The Fitbit wearable device captures key metrics that can inform a patient’s and HCP’s view of Quality of Life. HCPs can access patient data generated from the app through a web-based portal or PDF summary, which incorporates telemedicine and messaging for direct communication.
The Athena App MVP leverages a smartphone app integrated with consumer wearables and empowers patients to easily track, understand, and communicate simple, robust measures of QOL. It also provides a way for HCPs to engage holistically with patient QOL, including personal goals, activity, sleep, mental health, and cognition.

Furthermore, the validated data collected from the MVP can be used by Takeda to demonstrate real-world outcomes and develop novel solutions. Project Athena seeks to develop a QOL tracking solution that benefits patients, HCPs, and researchers.

A mention can be made of Sybil, a deep-learning cancer risk model. Sybil only takes a single low-chest computed tomography (CT) scan to predict lung cancer risk one to six years after screening.

Challenges
Though the adoption of AI in healthcare and treating lung cancer is promising, the following challenges need to  be looked into. Integrating AI solutions  into existing healthcare systems can be complex. Compatibility issues and
seamless integration with PACS/ RIS/ electronic health records (EHRs) must be addressed. Healthcare AI  solutions must adhere to stringent regulatory standards to ensure patient safety and efficacy.

Navigating regulatory frameworks and obtaining approvals can be time-consuming. Implementing AI technologies may involve significant upfront costs. Resource constraints in certain regions could hinder widespread adoption, especially in resource-constrained areas. Dr Aravind Badigar, Technical Director at BDR Pharmaceuticals says, “The advent of computerised software presents an opportunity to address this challenge more precisely. By pinpointing specific regions where cancerous cells proliferate rapidly, researchers can utilise a consolidated platform or matrix to analyse the plethora of data generated by various studies. This matrix could facilitate a comprehensive understanding of potential targets for combating lung cancer and evaluating the efficacy of existing pharmaceuticals.

However, the complexity does not end with identifying targets. The process becomesintricate when considering the administration of treatment. Notably,  the nasal route provides accessibility to the lungs, offering an alternative to conventional oral and injectable methods. If a comprehensive compilation of data, including the absorption and local effects of drugs administered nasally, is subjected to AI analysis, it can lead to valuable insights.”

The future
With a rise in lung cancer, more technological innovations are the need of the hour. Though the future is promising, affordable technological innovations will be a boon for patients suffering from lung cancer. More initiatives form the government to help researchers in this regard will be a boon for patients.

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