Dr Anne Blackwood, CEO, Health Enterprise East (HEE), examines some key innovations in cancer care.
With 800 cancer surgeries delayed in the first fortnight of January alone and millions of patients estimated to be waiting for urgent treatment and referrals, the prospects for cancer care during the pandemic may seem bleak. However, despite these troubling statistics, there are new cancer care technologies on the horizon, offering hope to patients during these difficult times.
For World Cancer Day at HEE, we want to celebrate some of the technologies we’re supporting in collaboration with various NHS hospitals and clinicals around the country, which are set to make a real difference to cancer patients lives.
With more than 47,500 men diagnosed each year, prostate cancer is the most diagnosed male cancer in the UK. However, the current mainstay method for diagnosing prostate cancer, known as transrectal biopsies, carries a significant risk of bleeding, fever, and severe infections, with tens of thousands of these standard procedures performed annually.
The need for a safe, simple and affordable method for taking prostate biopsies prompted the development of the Cambridge Prostate Biopsy Device – the CamProbe. This new device can safely access the prostate through the perineum instead of via the current transrectal route and be performed under local anaesthesia, reducing infection risk and lowering the number of missed cancers.
Having just gone through highly successful clinical trials, which found no infections, device deficiencies or safety issues, as well as excellent patient-reported perception and low pain scores, HEE is now working with CamProbe and a commercialisation partner to help secure a CE mark, with an aim to reach patient bedsides this year.
In light of the urgent need to relieve pressure on healthcare services, especially when it comes to cancer care, the fact that patients may soon benefit from this fast, low-risk biopsy procedure, which can be carried out in the out-patient setting, is hugely welcome news; transforming cancer patients’ lives and helping to relieve the ever-increasing NHS backlog.
Those undergoing cancer surgery carry a lifelong risk of local reoccurrence of cancer, making determining clear excision margins during surgery essential. However, currently, there is an urgent NHS need for a cost-effective, precise intra-operative technology for neuro-oncology surgery.
To meet this need, TumourVue is therefore developing a transformative medical imaging device for cancer surgery, which integrates Artificial Intelligence (AI) to distinguish precisely viable tumour from normal adjacent brain during surgery. This innovation empowers neurosurgeons to achieve maximum ‘safe’ resection of tumour by reliably visualising patient-specific tumour margin in real-time. Unlike conventional imaging tools, this new technology is also easy to integrate and can be attached to safety or prescription glasses worn by the surgeon.
Since receiving their proof of concept award from HEE’s joint funding venture, the MedTech Accelerator, TumourVue has been developing its handheld working prototype with product design engineering specialists. After going through the various design iterations, the technology should eventually be developed into a wearable device with three dimensional holographic features.
Through advancement in the intra-operative imaging technologies integrated with AI and next generation technologies such as augmented reality and robotics, TumourVue could provide the technological solution we need when it comes to surgical imaging challenges in cancer care. And with clinical trials on the horizon, it will be making a real-world impact sooner than we think.
Ablatus Therapeutics Limited began with a mission to transform tumour treatment by bringing to market a device that provided a new and improved ablation technique, which offered minimally invasive treatment for soft tissue tumours.
By using Bimodal Electric Tissue Ablation (BETA) technique, the device offers a cost-effective and efficient approach to destroying abnormal tissue, such as tumours, in situ and without major surgery, thus allowing the ablation of previously untreatable tumours.
Initially supported at launch by the MedTech Accelerator, it has recently secured a £1.4 million grant by Innovate UK that will fund a two-year project to develop the prototype device into a final version, for use in a clinical setting for the first time. Providing greater clinical options and better patient outcomes, Ablatus is set to transform tumour treatment for cancer patients throughout the UK.
Although news of hospitals reaching full capacity and treatments being delayed preoccupy the news cycle, we mustn’t forget that innovations like CamProbe, TumourVue, and Ablatus are still being developed. Whilst the pandemic has brought a dark cloud this past year, for World Cancer Day, let’s look ahead to the cancer care technologies of the future, and take hope from the potentially life-saving differences they could make to patients’ lives.