Beyond the Pap smear: Startup uses phone, light and AI to detect cervical cancer
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Beyond the Pap smear: Startup uses phone, light and AI to detect cervical cancer

Israel’s MobileODT says its product is cheaper and more accurate than today’s standard colposcopy method

Israeli startup MobileODT has created the Eva System, which uses an Automated Visual Evaluation (AVE) algorithm that it says can detect cervical cancer by simply examining an image of the cervix (Courtesy)
Israeli startup MobileODT has created the Eva System, which uses an Automated Visual Evaluation (AVE) algorithm that it says can detect cervical cancer by simply examining an image of the cervix (Courtesy)

Israeli start-up MobileODT says it can detect cervical cancer more accurately and inexpensively than the standard colposcopy method used today, by creating a mobile digital colposcope made up of a smartphone equipped with a light source, a lens for magnification and an artificial intelligence algorithm.

A colposcopy is a procedure that uses a colpocope that provides doctors with an illuminated and magnified view of a woman’s cervix and the tissues of the vagina and vulva, to screen for cervical cancer.

In 2018, 570,000 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer worldwide, making it the fourth most frequent cancer in females, according to the World Health Organization. A research by the National Cancer Institute also showed that 80 percent of the cases and 90% of the 280,000 deaths occurred in low- and middle-income countries, where the number of qualified colposcopists — the specialists who deal with the screenings of this anatomical area — is lower and healthcare operators have fewer resources.

Cervical cancer, usually caused by the Human papillomavirus (HPV) which is mainly transmitted through sexual contact, can be prevented via prophylactic vaccination against HPV, and the risk of death can be sharply reduced with early diagnosis, treatment programs and proper screening, using Pap smears, which involve scraping the cervical walls with a spatula for sample cells.

Closeup of a standard colposcope with an ultrasound machine in gynecological room (OKrasyuk; iStock by Getty Images)

With its Eva System, which uses an Automated Visual Evaluation (AVE) algorithm, MobileODT says it can detect cervical cancer simply by examining an image of the cervix.

According to the company, the AVE algorithm has proved to be more reliable than a human expert conducting a colposcopy in identifying abnormal tissue that points to a possible future development of cervical cancer.

After developing the initial algorithm in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute, MobileODT created a portable, wireless and internet-connected colposcope called Eva Colpo that can be used in any clinic and medical practice, allowing women living in poorer areas to benefit from precise screening tests.

The device’s hardware is a white, waterproof case enclosing a smartphone, which is an integral part of the device. Samsung J530 is the only model supported, content and community manager Rachel Gross told The Times of Israel. There is a handle with a power button at the base of the cover.

Eva Colpo is equipped with a light source for illumination, a camera with lens for 16x optical magnification, and cross-grid polarizers for glare reduction.

The device is pointed towards the pelvic area, after vaginal dilation has taken place through the use of a speculum. Then the colposcopist can look at the cervix on the phone’s screen in real time and in great detail, the company says.

Israeli start-up MobileODT has created the Eva System, which uses an Automated Visual Evaluation (AVE) algorithm, which has proved to be more reliable than a human expert when conducting a colposcopy in identifying abnormal tissue that points to a possible future development of cervical cancer (Courtesy)

As a next step, clinicians take high-quality photo or video captures. This data is then transferred to the cloud where “the algorithm will assess the image for the presence of cancer,” Gross said. Cancer is detected by the integrated software through abnormalities in the cervix tissue.

The AVE algorithm is not yet cleared for use by the US Food & Drug Administration for diagnostic purposes, but it is currently cleared by the FDA and the CE as a visualization tool, according to Gross, who added that when the algorithm receives FDA approval — in a year of two depending on the FDA timeline — it will turn Eva System into a proper diagnostic tool.

The EVA system is already in use in 29 countries including Kenya, India, and Cambodia, plus 50 healthcare systems across the US, Gross said, but just as a tool for visualizing the cervix that can provide magnification after a HPV or Pap test has been carried out.

Through the EVA System app – available for download on Google Store – practitioners will be able to provide an immediate diagnosis and record their decision to either treat patients on site without waiting for other test results, or refer them to another facility for treatment.

Image and video captures can be both stored on the smartphone and synced safely to an online portal set up by the company. The information can be then exported and uploaded to the electronic medical records (EMR) of the practitioner.

MobileODT recently achieved integration with the EMR of athenahealth, a company providing cloud-based services in healthcare, Gross said.

Doctors might also add annotations and filters to the images so as to obtain new useful details, as well as monitor patients’ progress through time.

The great advantage is connectivity. Every patient’s data is saved in an individual folder and can be securely shared through the web portal with other colleagues or organizations for assessment and clinical consultation, generally improving practitioners’ performance.

Moreover, doctors can review stored materials and even use them for remote-teaching purposes.

Ariel Beery, the CEO of Israeli startup MobileODT (YouTube screenshot)

“Our team is proud to make available an AVE-enabled colposcope to reach more women and save more lives,” said CEO Ariel Beery in the press release.

The product, which the company says is available for a fraction of the price of a standard colposcope, is aimed at not just individual specialists, but also hospitals and NGOs involved in the medical field.

Mobile ODT announced last week that it will soon start a pilot study in India, where only 3.1% of the 432 million women at risk of developing cervical cancer can undergo clinical screenings. The company aims to screen 250 women per day and has partnered with partners Apollo Hospitals and Genworks Health, a large provider of healthcare solutions in the Asiatic country.

MobileODT’s team was at work in India last week to train the clinicians on how to use the device, Gross said.

This clinical study — the first wide-scale one — is meant to improve the AI algorithm “by comparing cytologic co-testing to the algorithm performance, using biopsy as ground truth,” the company said.

The Tel Aviv-based company was founded in 2012 by childhood friends Beery and CTO David Levitz. The former global CEO of social ventures accelerator PresentTenseGroup, Beery also teaches at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, while Levy has a background in biomedical engineering.

Currently on its Round B funding, MobileODT has so far raised $11 million, according to the database of Start-Up Nation Central, which tracks Israel’s tech industry.

MobileODT also has another application for its technology: its device is capable of being adapted to examine patients who were sexually assaulted and collect forensic findings, the company said.

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