For the first time ever, pathologists at Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center have found a way to diagnose a cancer mutation and adjust treatment within minutes through a unique Israeli development that combines digital pathology with artificial intelligence (AI).
A complex genetic molecular test must be performed on each tumor to locate mutations and find a personalized treatment for patients. The process currently takes several weeks, during which the patient is not treated and the cancer progresses. When it comes to aggressive metastatic cancer, that time period can be the difference between life and death. The new technology, developed by the Imagene AI company, is being applied by Sourasky’s pathology institute.
The genetic testing of tumors, with the help of complex molecular methods, is the main tool for adjusting biological treatment for cancer patients. Today, the test is performed by sequencing the genetic material, the DNA extracted from the tumor tissue removed during surgery or biopsy. The entire process, starting with the examination of the tumor with a microscope, through the isolation of the DNA and ending with the complex sequencing test, is all done in the institute.
Imagene AI is an Israeli start-up founded in Tel Aviv two years ago with a clear mission to assist cancer patients in receiving the optimal treatment medicine can offer. They use artificial intelligence to detect in real-time a broad range of cancerous biomarkers and genomic insights from the biopsy image alone. By doing so, says the startup, “we overcome economic, logistical and technological barriers to reach the full potential of precision medicine for cancer patients. Through collaborations with top-tier medical centers and pharmaceutical companies, Imagene AI is revolutionizing molecular screening for both clinical practice and research.”
To overcome the problem, the company uses the digital pathology capability of Sourasky’s pathology institute, where the appearance of the tumor under the microscope can be turned into extremely high-resolution images.
The company developed a special algorithm capable of identifying the unique appearance of cells that have different mutations. In this way, it is possible to predict the presence of a mutation within minutes, immediately after looking at the tumor under a microscope, without the need for a complex genetic test.
First two in the world to use the technology clinically
Two cancer patients treated at Sourasky were the first in the world to benefit from the technology in a clinical setting. Both were found to be suffering from turbulent metastatic disease with brain metastases, and their need for treatment was immediate.
Understanding the medical urgency, Imagene’s algorithm was activated for the first time, and within minutes, it identified treatable mutations. Based on this finding, a targeted and rapid genetic test was also performed that confirmed the presence of the mutation and allowed treatment to begin within 24 hours.
The pathology institute “participates in research activities and innovative technological developments, but only occasionally do we get to see how the innovation translates into a direct and significant benefit to patients,” according to its director, Prof. Dov Hershkovitz. “I am very happy for the opportunity to work with a leading and innovative Israeli company at the international level. The impact we are already seeing on the quality of care gives tremendous satisfaction from the daily work.”
Prof. Ido Wolf, director of Sourasky’s oncology division, added that “this is an amazing achievement – a combination of science, technology and innovation that went straight to the patient's bedside and allows us to actually save lives. In the past we waited a long time and saw how patients deteriorate before our eyes, but now it is possible to actually save lives. Yesterday, I asked for a test and today I already gave medicine. It's so exciting; I didn't believe we would reach such a moment.”
"I am very happy for the opportunity to work with a leading and innovative Israeli company at the international level. The impact we are already seeing on the quality of care gives tremendous satisfaction from the daily work.”Prof. Dov Hershkovitz
Dean Bitan, co-founder and CEO of Imagene AI, said that “to develop advanced technology and also to see its enormous impact on human life is a great privilege. This excites us all very much, as we exist exactly for this. Genomic diagnosis within minutes and the start of an immediate, tailored treatment is a very dramatic change for the patient, family and the doctors’ team. We are proud to be leading this revolution.”