Breast cancer diagnostic tool could save NHS £287m

A breast cancer diagnostic technology could save the NHS £287 million if adopted, a new study has found.

The health economic study, carried out by Health Tech Connect and commissioned and funded by the UK government, concluded that the AI-powered tool would present huge savings in healthcare with much lower acquisition costs, transportation fees and a reduced prescription of chemotherapy, by as much as 30%. If the tool was utilised for other areas of cancer across the NHS it would offer even greater savings.

Most breast cancer biopsy results are currently air freighted to the US for analysis at huge cost to the NHS – and the environment. The 40-page study found that Digistain’s technology eliminates this need, therefore reducing the NHS carbon footprint by 460 tonnes.

Digistain has been inducted into the NHS Innovation Accelerator programme – mandated to help innovations spread throughout the NHS quickly.

Clinical data unveiled at the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago last month showed that Digistain demonstrated similar diagnostic accuracy to the current National Institute for Health and Care Excellence-approved cancer test.

The health economic study concluded: “The results indicate that the greatest cost savings can be achieved by offering Digistain as a substitute. Digistain proves to be an optimal alternative to the currently offered tumour profiling test, as it delivers non-inferior health outcomes while generating cost savings…Implementing Digistain as a substitute for the current care would lead to improved health outcomes. The innovation proves to be more cost-effective for post-menopausal women.

“The results indicate that Digistain can lead to statistically significant cumulative savings of an average of £286.7 million for an intermediate-risk patient population once rolled out as a substitute.”

UK-invented Digistain is currently being adopted around the world by hospitals in India, Thailand, Ecuador, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Myanmar and Indonesia, with deals in the US and parts of Africa imminent. It is being trialled by several UK NHS trusts.

It has also gained support from breast cancer survivor and patient advocate, actress Samantha Womack who has called for its adoption by the NHS and was selected as one of the Top 10 clinical studies of the year by the American Society Of Breast Surgery.

Sharaz Khan, NHS head of pathology at the Northampton General Hospital, which is an early adopter of Digistain, said: “Digistain cuts down wait times for results massively when compared to our current provider who is sending samples to the US for analysis. The turnaround time with Digistain is much quicker, it is more accurate and cheaper.

“The backlogs caused by the pandemic and industrial actions mean that fast-paced technology like this can really be the difference between life and death.

“I have worked for the National Health Service for 25 years and it is innovation like this that will open up a new digital pathway and frontier for the NHS – and help future-proof it. It can only be a matter of time before Digistain is adopted across the whole of the NHS.”

Digistain aims to reduce the inequality of healthcare around the world and improve its provision in poorer nations across Asia and Africa. It has passed clinical studies and peer review, gaining market clearance from the UK’s Medicines & Healthcare Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

Digistain CEO and clinical scientist Dr. Hemmel Amrania, who invented the technology, said: “Digistain is at the forefront of rapid and cost-effective personalised cancer treatment decision-making. This affordable new technology speeds up biopsy analysis where time and swift action are precious commodities.

“This new and independent study demonstrates the significant economic and emissions savings that the NHS could achieve by adopting Digistain. This is a dynamic solution and one that speeds up the process, reducing anxiety for patients and cost. Ultimately, and most importantly, we hope Digistain can help to save many thousands of lives.”

The concept was developed at London’s Imperial College and Cancer Research UK laboratories under the guidance of decorated pathologist Sir Nicholas Wright and designed with input from 1500 oncologists. It has been successfully trialled with patients from the Nottingham University Hospital and London’s Charing Cross Hospital. Last year, the company was awarded an Institute of Physics Business Start-Up award.

Around 50,000 people are diagnosed with breast cancer in the UK each year, with around 11,500 resulting in death. Impacts of delays in diagnosis will result in an estimated 5,000 excess deaths from breast cancer for the period 2020-2030.

The technology does not rely on a traditional fixed assessment of chemical analysis. Instead, it uses optical scan technology to capture a unique spectral signature from each biopsy creating over 10,000 data points unique to the individual biology of a patient. Artificial intelligence is then used to analyse the imaging data and calculate a Digistain Prognostic Scoreô that precisely and objectively identifies the risk of cancer recurrence.

The technology has been successfully validated in prominent cancer centres of excellence and has demonstrated gold-standard equivalency to NICE-approved traditional tumour profiling tests. The research has also been recognised in the industry with a string of prestigious awards. These include the Imperial College Outstanding Research Award, a Royal Society Innovation Award and the Cancer Research UK Pioneer Award.

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This post originally appeared on TechToday.