Device could help solve Third World cervical-cancer woes

Biop’s technology can reduce the time needed to diagnose one of the biggest killers of women — from weeks, to minutes

The Biop device connected to a laptop, where it downloads the data gathered in an examination. (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Biop device connected to a laptop, where it downloads the data gathered in an examination. (photo credit: Courtesy)

An Israeli medical device to check for the presence of cervical cancer could be an important factor in reducing the rate of death from the disease in the developing world.

Biop Medical founder and CEO Ilan Landesman believes that his examination device — the only one that provides instant readings and results on whether a woman is suffering from cervical cancer — could be a boon to women everywhere, especially in places like Africa.

“The Biop device is perfect for any setting, especially for doctors and nurses in rural areas who don’t have — and can’t afford — the fancy equipment usually needed to test for cervical cancer,” said Landesman. “It’s a big-data solution that can replace traditional methods of examining for cervical cancer.”

Cervical cancer is the fourth-biggest cancer killer of women worldwide, but where in the world a woman lives is a very important factor in whether or not she will survive the disease. As with so many other major diseases, early detection is an important factor in cures. But the vast majority of women in the world do not have access to doctors to even begin the process of checking for cervical cancer — much less the numerous follow-up visits that are necessary.

Testing usually commences with a Pap smear, which involves collecting cells from the cervix for analysis. The cells are collected using a speculum and sent on for analysis, which could take several weeks, even in a Western urban hospital.

If something suspicious is picked up in the analysis, the patient will be asked to undergo a colposcopy, a procedure that provides an enlarged view of the cervix. The results of the colposcopy are then analyzed, which takes several more weeks, at which point the patient may undergo a biopsy or a pathological exam.

Not only is the procedure time-consuming, said Landesman — it’s also not very accurate, as evidenced by the many procedures needed to arrive at a final decision on whether or not cancer is present. And if that’s the normal procedure in a big city, where there are plenty of medical resources — labs, equipment, and personnel to do the testing — what about in a rural or Third World setting, where all those resources are likely to be in short supply, if not missing altogether?

The Biop device, which is basically a cloud-connected camera, provides a solution for just that scenario, said Landesman. The Biop device is inserted into the cervix and, using a high-resolution optical system, sends images to a remote server. There, the images are analyzed in depth and compared with a large library of images that show the cancer in its various stages of development.

Biop’s software is then able to distinguish between normal and cancerous cells, with the results returned a few minutes later, so both the care provider and the patient know what they are up against — instead of waiting long, agonizing weeks to find out if the patient is healthy or sick. According to the company, tests in clinics in the US and Europe show that the results are at least 90% accurate, on the first test.

Biop uses IBM’s Bluemix platform (the company was a member of the recently graduated first round of the IBM Alpha Zone accelerator). “Our system can translate the optical signature compared to the state of the cervical tissue,” said Landesman. “It identifies the correlation between the optical signature and the state of the biological tissue and sends this information to the IBM cloud environment, where a unique algorithm is used for the analysis process of the different phenomena, and interpretation is received within minutes,” he continued.

“A database of raw data is formed and becomes part of our cloud. IBM’s unique tools conduct advanced analysis of the uploaded images, and can even predict future risks and recommend additional tests,” concluded the CEO.

Last November, Biop was one of four companies chosen as a finalist in the prestigious New Ventures Healthcare Challenge, sponsored by the Cleveland Clinic, considered one of the top hospitals in the US. The company came in a close second in the contest, the judges said, but they praised the Biop innovation as a real breakthrough in cervical-cancer diagnosis.

Especially in the developing world, where Biop could set up long-distance medical services, with images uploaded to the database and sent for analysis at a distant location. This will allow comparison of each test with millions of other tests — enabling improved precision in diagnostic processes, said Landesman. “This would have tremendous value in the developing world, because it is a real-time diagnostic that can provide answers to medical care personnel and patients right away, instead of over a period of weeks, as is usually required.”

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