Cambridge-based startup Lucida Medical has raised significant seed capital from a group of investors led by XTX Ventures and Prostate Cancer Research (PCR). The company’s goal is to disrupt the cancer diagnostic pathway with technology that finds cancer more accurately by analysing MRI, enabling radiologists to save time and patients to receive the best possible diagnosis and treatment. The initial focus is prostate cancer, the most common cancer in men in Europe, Africa and North and South America, with 1.4 million diagnosed worldwide each year, and 375,000 deaths. Earlier and better detection saves lives.
Lucida Medical’s technology, presented at the European Congress of Radiology (ECR) in March 2021, helps to automate labour-intensive tasks such as marking out lesions, and avoid unnecessary invasive biopsies, with unprecedented accuracy and consistency. The funding will be used to extend the team, achieve regulatory approvals for the company’s technology, and complete a 2000-patient clinical study.
Co-founders Prof Evis Sala and Dr Antony Rix have developed the software using radiogenomics, machine learning and image processing to analyse magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. MRI is now the preferred technique to assess a range of cancers, including prostate and metastatic disease. However, the current process of radiologists interpreting oncological MRI requires specialist training and is labour-intensive, creating a growing skills challenge: the shortfall in the UK radiologist workforce is forecast to reach 43% by 2024. Prostate cancer diagnosis using MRI represents a major step forward compared to earlier methods, but remains error-prone. The ground-breaking PROMIS study (Lancet 2017; 389: 815–22) indicated that radiologists can miss 12% of significant cancers on MRI, and lead to 55% of individuals without significant cancer receiving a painful and costly biopsy. The study presented at ECR 2021 suggests that Lucida Medical’s AI technology could help cut missed cancers to 7% and unnecessary biopsies to 24%, as well as making the process faster.
Access to accurate diagnosis is a particular issue outside of leading institutions, especially for specific groups known to be at higher risk, for example men of West African genetic heritage. Lucida aims to screen up to 54 million men for prostate cancer each year using its technology, to offer the benefits of early detection and personalised care to everyone.