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Innovation in Oncology Management, A Promising Look for Patients

How artificial intelligence is paving the way for better cancer management.

by Jennifer Cho

Early Screening and Detection Key to Driving Better Patient Outcomes

Effective management of cancer depends on early detection. Progress in this area lies in advanced diagnostic tools for testing and encouraging patients to present early. These advancements, largely accelerated by artificial intelligence (AI), are critical given how cancer rates are increasing and remain the second cause of death globally.1 Despite headwinds caused by the pandemic, research into non-COVID-19 conditions continues.

In the case of early detection of colorectal cancer, intelligent endoscopy devices have successfully identified colon polyps during a colonoscopy by computer-aided detection system using AI, delivering a 14 per cent increase in identifying hard-to-detect precancerous lesions.2 This is evident in PillCam – a Medtronic proprietary software algorithm with a camera capsule that can be swallowed by patients. It allows doctors to have direct visualisation of the small bowel and detect obscure bleeding, iron deficiency, anaemia, and lesions remotely via sensors.3 Development of monitoring tools such as the PillCam helps with the early detection of tumours that can help prevent colon-related cancers and also ensure treatment-related complications do not progress to a serious state.


Technology as a Force for Innovation in Oncology

While diagnostic testing and imaging technologies have been pivotal throughout the care-continuum journey of a cancer patient, there is still immense potential to innovate in the MedTech oncological treatment space. Digital disruption can drive next-level innovation, improve patient outcomes, and plug the gaps in existing healthcare systems. For example, while many patients with metastatic bone disease struggle with extreme pain from the condition, one in three patients are not eligible for conventional treatments.4

This is when modern solutions like radiofrequency ablation, a minimally invasive procedure, can fill the gap. Using algorithms designed to perform optimally in bone, the procedure allows doctors to deliver alternating low power currents at tumours with precise control, reducing the risk of thermal damage to adjacent structures. Considered minimally invasive, the procedure can be completed quickly and allows patients to go home on the same day, avoiding complex surgeries.


Better Experiences for All

With an innovation mindset, the MedTech industry is primed to make more breakthroughs, with new methods of treatment that will not just benefit patients’ treatment and recovery. According to McKinsey’s report, the essentials of healthcare innovation,5 90 per cent agreed that the pandemic will fundamentally change the way they do business, requiring new products, services, processes, and business models. For example, there are less extensive treatments such as using orthopaedic balloons to treat pathological fractures due to cancer or benign lesions without open surgery.3 This procedure requires less time and resources, which allows doctors to focus on less mission-critical tasks, such as improving their bedside manner to make full use of their facetime with cancer patients and being present with them, increasing patient care satisfaction. Additionally, MedTech innovation goes beyond delivering care during an acute or critical episode.


Collaboration Key for Successful Total Management

Successful total management will come with fostering a multidisciplinary, collaborative, and patient-centric approach to cancer care. In the case of advancements in safer and proven cancer pain management today, targeted drug delivery can provide effective pain relief in a number of ways. One way is to deliver medication directly to the fluid surrounding the spinal cord via a programmable pump. When released in small amounts, it allows pain to be controlled with what a fraction of an oral medication dose does. Another way is to empower patients to decide on targeted drug delivery from the onset and have the pump implanted during a surgical procedure, in an abdomen position at the patient’s comfort—a collaborative effort between patient and physician.

In an unexpected case for collaboration, Amazon partnered with Medtronic to bring PillCam to patients’ doorsteps, a signpost for how different industries can learn from each other to chart new frontiers for human lives. Similarly, driving collaboration in the start-up space can also power medical advances in the field. For Medtronic, this was through launching the Open Innovation platform where partnerships can be fostered among different stakeholders in the Asia Pacific. The goal is to enable start-ups and SMEs in APAC to display their innovative solutions in Healthcare Technology and partner with Medtronic for a potential collaboration for the launch of the product or solution.

One such start-up that was scouted was a young India-based startup, Niramai, for their novel solution – Thermalytix. It is a computer-aided diagnostic engine powered by AI for breast cancer screening as opposed to thermography images.6 The solution uses a high-resolution thermal sensing device and a cloud-hosted analytics solution for analysing the thermal images. The solution provides reliable, early, and accurate breast cancer screening. It is noteworthy that Niramai was one of the 10 finalists at the Medtronic APAC Innovation Challenge that concluded in March 2022. [APBN]

*Footnote: As the status of product approval may vary from country to country, it is recommended to check with Medtronic representative person of your country for your local approval and availability of the above-mentioned product.

About the Author

Jennifer Cho is the Vice President & Managing Director of the Singapore/Malaysia sub-region. She joined Medtronic in 2010 and as the Singapore/Malaysia sub-region leader, Jennifer is responsible for ensuring the countries develop local capabilities and invest to achieve greater results and better outcomes. With her leadership, the teams were able to expand medical access to more patients in these countries. Jennifer has a strong track record in the healthcare industry – both in pharmaceutical and medical technology.