Investing in next generation medical imaging revolutionizes tumor surgery
With the introduction of digital technologies such as 3D printing, robotics and nanotechnology, a new future for medical care is unfolding. One of the companies shaping this revolution is Switzerland's SamanTree Medical. It developed the Histolog® Scanner, which allows surgeons to identify cancerous tissue in real time. SamanTree is now preparing for commercial rollout. 'In doing so, we have found an indispensable partner in Sioux,' said CTO Etienne Shaffer.
Tumor surgery is often not a one-time procedure. Removing malignant tissue while preserving as much of the healthy tissue as possible, for example in breast cancer, is therefore not easy. Moreover, whether success has been achieved is only determined afterwards in a pathology lab where the periphery of the excision is examined and assessed.
It is often the case that additional surgery is necessary," says Shaffer. That is stressful for the patient and very expensive. Our Histolog Scanner offers a solution. We bring ultrafast digital confocal microscopy to the operating room. You dip fresh tissue into a contrast medium and place it under the imaging window of the Histolog Scanner; no cutting or mounting on glass is necessary. It's ready for imaging within a minute. Less than a minute later, you have a detailed image of the morphology at subcellular resolution. This allows the surgeon to set much more precise margins during the procedure, work more precisely and avoid follow-up surgery. In addition, our technology can also be used more broadly, for example in biopsies or within the pathology workflow.'
The Histolog Scanner is a breakthrough in medical imaging in its own right. It can scan and process tissue samples up to eight centimeters in diameter in near real time. That large field of view a traditional specimen is usually one and a half centimeters in diameter offers significant advantages. However, it also places enormous demands on data management. As a second major challenge, Shaffer mentions the development of user applications. 'How well specialists interpret images depends on many factors such as level of education and experience. We want to help customers eliminate this subjectivity and speed up the analysis process. A first step is to automate an initial rough analysis. We recently released an application for our Histolog Scanner that independently identifies potential areas of interest for further inspection. We created this application together with Sioux's software and mathware specialists.'
'That tool is cutting edge technology at the intersection of data analysis and artificial intelligence,' emphasizes Robbert van Herpen, responsible for the Mathware division at Sioux Technologies. 'The system must quickly, accurately and reliably recognize diverse patterns in various tissue types. That fact forms the basis of the data model. During development, we applied the latest insights in the field of deep learning. By feeding it with the right data, optimizing hyperparameters and deploying it on SamanTree's system, we made the move to a high-performance solution. Meanwhile, the tool is very good at locating areas of interest and ready for use in the operating room. The holy grail is an autonomous system that achieves 100 percent results and excludes human error. We're not there yet, but the current scanner and applications are already facilitating a revolution in tumor surgery.'
SamanTree Medical now has a fleet of eight Histolog Scanners that are being used within demonstration projects in various European medical centers to prepare for the commercial rollout. Here too Sioux plays an important role. Shaffer: "When looking for a development and manufacturing partner we stumbled upon Sioux 3 years ago. Anno 2020 we are connected in many ways. The Sioux Tech Fund joined as an investor. Besides being an extension of our R&D, Sioux is also our exclusive partner in industrialization and manufacturing. The production is fully transferred, which helps us to focus on our customers. The market introduction will take place step by step because of the radical nature of our technology. But after the early adopters, the masses will follow, I'm sure. Even then the engineering and manufacturing skills of Sioux will help us, for example with further development, scaling up production and cost down operations.'