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Panakeia’s 15-minute breast cancer test approved for use



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A 15-minute test for breast cancer is set to radically transform the treatment landscape for both physicians and patients.

Dr Pahini Pandya, CEO and co-founder of Panakeia. Picture: Richard Marsham
Dr Pahini Pandya, CEO and co-founder of Panakeia. Picture: Richard Marsham

Panakeia’s groundbreaking AI test for breast PANProfiler Breast assay – the world’s first AI software that can predict biomarker status from digitally imaged routine pathology samples – has received UKCA and CE certification for clinical use by health services in the UK and EU.

PANProfiler is the only solution that can accurately predict biomarker status to guide clinical decision-making, removing the need for expensive and time-consuming lab testing. This is the next step following the ability to detect the presence of cancer in a digital pathology image, which PANProfiler achieves along with other AI tools on the market.

The mission to speed up decision-making in diagnosis and treatment is driven by CEO and co-founder Pahini Pandya’s own experience of waiting for the results of tests for blood cancer – the same disease that claimed her childhood best friend – which fortunately turned out to be negative.

Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in the world, and the leading cause of cancer-related death among women. In the UK, around 55,900 new cases are diagnosed every year, and with a backlog in referrals caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, there are currently considerable delays in diagnosis and treatment. This is unacceptable and stressful when dealing with a fast-growing cancer. However, currently treatment decisions rely on lab testing to identify cancer biomarkers – a vital, but time-consuming step which can delay treatment decisions by weeks.

A consultant analysing a mammogram
A consultant analysing a mammogram

Panakeia’s game-changing technology grew out of research by Dr Pandya, a former cancer researcher at the University of Cambridge, and AI researcher Pandu Raharja-Liu. Together, after founding the company in 2018, they realised that tiny differences in the appearance of cancer cells – which can only be detected by computer vision and AI analysis – can reveal important information about underlying biomarker status and likely best treatment options.

“I know first-hand the anxiety of waiting for your test results,” says Dr Pandya. “Due to the pressure on labs, even in the best healthcare systems, diagnosis and treatment decisions can take weeks – an unacceptable and stressful delay when dealing with a fast-growing cancer. We’re excited to be rolling out PANProfiler to hospitals here in the UK and around the world to speed up access to treatment and help save lives.”

Integrating seamlessly into the digital cancer diagnostic workflow, PANProfiler Breast analyses digital images of routinely-collected haemotoxylin and eosin (H&E) stained breast tumour samples to determine ER, PR and HER2 status, identifying whether the patient is a candidate for hormone therapy or Herceptin.

PANProfiler provides a diagnostic readout from the original H&E image in less than 15 minutes with accuracy comparable to lab testing, making the PANProfiler test much faster and cheaper than existing lab tests which take days or weeks, potentially saving healthcare systems millions a year. Not only does this save precious time in the patient journey, but also significantly reduces the burden on busy and costly laboratory services, which are facing a backlog due to the impact of Covid-19 on cancer diagnosis.

PANProfiler is currently being trialled in hospitals in the UK, with plans in place to expand into Europe, North America and Asia.

The early detection and treatment of breast cancer saves lives
The early detection and treatment of breast cancer saves lives

Julia Hawkins, general partner at LocalGlobe & Latitude, one of Panakeia’s major investors, says: “New digital technologies are transforming healthcare, improving outcomes for patients and reducing the burden on overstretched staff and systems. These technologies will play a vital role in healthcare providers’ recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, enabling them to quickly deal with the backlog of patients, and diagnose and treat patients without delay.

“Panakeia’s groundbreaking technology promises to transform cancer diagnosis and treatment decisions.”

To date, the PANProfiler tool has been already validated on 650 cases with additional studies under way.

“This profiler has the potential to help the NHS improve efficiency in pathology laboratories, support efforts to ease pathology workloads, and facilitate Covid-19 recovery. It enables rapid cancer diagnosis, improving both patient experience and outcomes,” says Professor David Harrison, director of iCAIRD, one of five centres of excellence in the UK focused on AI applications in pathology and radiology funded by Innovate UK as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Professor Sarah Pinder, chair of breast pathology at King’s College London and lead breast pathologist at Guy’s & St Thomas’ Hospitals, said: “This exciting technology has the potential to save laboratory resources and also to improve turnaround time for biomarker results for patients with invasive breast cancer.”

Raharja-Liu, who has lost family members to the disease, adds: “This is a golden opportunity to transform cancer diagnosis. We can now do something that nobody has achieved before – to look at the kinds of cancer samples that are prepared in hospitals all over the world and gather rich information about what these cells are like and how best to treat them.”

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