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Unlocking the future of lung cancer screening: How DART is redefining early diagnosis 

When it comes to the battle against lung cancer, early detection is the key to saving lives. But what if there were a way to transform the diagnostic process and make it more accessible?
That is what we’re trying to achieve through our research programme funded by Innovate UK and Cancer Research UK (CRUK) and commercial companies GEHC, Optellum and Roche Diagnostics.

What is DART?

DART is an ambitious initiative focused on harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to transform the way we diagnose lung cancer. We collaborate with lung health checks across the UK collecting invaluable data to develop AI algorithms that will redefine early diagnosis and, ultimately, save lives.

The urgent need for early diagnosis

Lung cancer is often a silent predator, revealing its presence only when it’s reached an advanced stage. By then, treatment becomes far more challenging, and the prognosis can be bleak. The key to improved outcomes lies in diagnosing lung cancer at stage one and two when treatment options are more effective and less invasive.

The power of big data

One of DART’s distinguishing features is the scale of our data collection. While the other largest dataset in the world comprises of 28,000 CT scans, often performed on older machines, the DART dataset has already surpassed that figure. But that’s just the beginning. Our vision is to grow this dataset to a quarter of a million CT scans, making it ten times larger than the current world’s largest lung cancer screening dataset.

A collaborative approach

DART thrives on collaboration. It brings together diverse teams, combining imaging and data, to improve the decision-making process for radiologists. By analysing vast amounts of patient data, they aim to predict outcomes for different patient groups, helping medical professionals make more informed decisions.

Maintaining privacy and ethical standards

Patient privacy and data security are top priorities for us. We employ de-identification methods to protect patient information and ensure that data users don’t inadvertently access sensitive details. This approach safeguards both patients and researchers.

The future of lung cancer screening

We believe that AI will play a pivotal role in the future of lung cancer screening. With the responsibility to design lung cancer screening for the next generation, we aim to make a global impact by facilitating early diagnosis and improving patient care worldwide – which is the most extraordinary opportunity.

We hope our innovative approach to lung cancer diagnosis will change the landscape of early detection and save countless lives in the process.

Optellum receives FDA clearance for Virtual Nodule Clinic

DART partner Optellum receives FDA clearance for the world’s first AI-powered clinical decision support software for early lung cancer diagnosis

Virtual Nodule Clinic empowers clinicians to make optimal clinical decisions in early-stage lung cancer diagnosis and is now commercially available in the United States.

DART partner Optellum, a lung health company aiming to redefine early diagnosis and treatment of lung disease, has received clearance from the FDA for its Virtual Nodule Clinic.

This revolutionary product is an AI-powered clinical decision support software for pulmonologists and radiologists managing patients with small lesions in the lungs – nodules – that could represent early-stage lung cancer. This is the first such application of AI decision support for early lung cancer diagnosis cleared by the FDA.

Lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer. The current five-year survival rate is an abysmal 20%, primarily due to the majority of patients being diagnosed after symptoms have appeared and the disease has progressed to an advanced stage (Stage III or IV).

By comparison, the survival rate for small tumours treated at Stage IA is up to 90%.

“This clearance will ensure clinicians have the clinical decision support they need to diagnose and treat lung cancer at the earliest possible stage, harnessing the power of physicians and AI working together – to the benefit of patients. Our goal at Optellum is to redefine early diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer, and this FDA clearance is the first step on that journey. We look forward to empowering clinicians in every hospital, from our current customers at academic medical centres to local community hospitals, to offer patients with lung cancer and other deadly lung diseases the most optimal diagnosis and treatment.”

Optellum’s CEO Václav Potěšil

Up to two million US patients a year are identified as having lung nodules through chest CT scans. Current guidelines mandate follow-up over one to two years to determine whether a nodule is cancerous. However, over 60% of these patients do not receive guideline-recommended follow-ups, severely limiting opportunities for early intervention and treatment.
Patients who do receive recommended follow-up often require multiple imaging scans and biopsies, and sometimes unnecessary invasive procedures including surgical biopsies and lung resections, before arriving at a definite diagnosis.

Virtual Nodule Clinic

Optellum’s Virtual Nodule Clinic is designed to solve this problem by enabling pulmonologists to identify and track at-risk patients with suspicious lung nodules and make optimal clinical management decisions for those patients. The software features a clinically validated Lung Cancer Prediction (LCP) score designed to empower clinicians to more accurately and consistently evaluate lung cancer risk and make more optimal clinical decisions that could save more patient lives.

Optellum’s LCP score is powered by the world’s first FDA-cleared imaging AI/”Radiomics”-based digital biomarker for lung cancer. The score is computed from full patterns of 3D pixels in standard images captured by Computed Tomography (CT) scanners, which are already available and the standard of care in every modern hospital.

Physician use of Virtual Nodule Clinic is shown to improve diagnostic accuracy and clinical decision-making. In the clinical study which underpins the FDA clearance, all readers in the study, which included pulmonologists and radiologists of various levels of expertise, from generalists to experts, showed a statistically significant improvement in their accuracy for diagnosing lung nodules when using the Optellum software.

Optellum is a commercial-stage lung health company providing Artificial Intelligence decision support software that assists physicians in early diagnosis and optimal treatment for their patients. The company was founded so that every lung disease patient is diagnosed and treated at the earliest possible stage when chances of cure are the highest. Optellum has headquarters at the Oxford Centre for Innovation in Oxford, United Kingdom and a US office at the Texas Medical Center in Houston, TX.

Virtual Nodule Clinic on laptop CT

“Congratulations to all the team at Optellum on the news of the FDA approval for the Virtual Nodule Clinic. This is a huge milestone and is the first FDA approved AI solution for enhancing lung cancer diagnosis. NCIMI look forward to working with the team to further develop Optellum’s solutions for lung health, with impact for the NHS and global patient communities.”

Dr Claire Bloomfield, NCIMI CEO

Optellum and DART 

Optellum will lead and deliver DART’s lung cancer AI model validation work by providing AI and technical expertise and will collaborate with Roche on the integration of blood biomarkers.

“DART is pleased to have the knowledge and support of Optellum in making a real improvement to the early identification, leading to earlier treatment of lung cancer, which is good news for patients and the NHS”

Professor Fergus Gleeson, DART Chief Investigator 

The Optellum Virtual Nodule Clinic AI model is being trialled on Lung Cancer Screening (LCS) data, and an automated workflow is being developed to support implementation into clinical practice.

LCS project objectives

AI algorithm outputs are being validated using the same trial protocol currently in use for testing Optellum’s algorithm in an incidental pulmonary nodule NHS setting (IDEAL). This will lead to easy adoption into the NHS if the trials are successful.