By Aine Cryts

Prostate cancer is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men, with the World Health Organization reporting 13.5% of men worldwide will receive the diagnosis. Moreover, a 2017 study published in Lancet revealed that multiplanar MRI can be associated with 27% fewer biopsies and the detection of 18% more unseen cancers.

That’s the backdrop for Cambridge, Mass.-based IBM Watson Health and Villepinte, France-based Guerbet’s announcement in September that the companies will co-develop a software solution to support radiologists and oncologists in diagnosing and monitoring prostate cancer. This is the second co-development project between the companies; the first such project, announced in July 2018, is ongoing and focused on using artificial intelligence to help clinicians diagnose and monitor patients with liver cancer.

“The main diagnostic challenge with prostate cancer lies in identifying cancers requiring rapid treatment and those requiring only active surveillance, while avoiding unnecessary biopsies,” said David Gruen, MD, deputy chief medical officer at Watson Health Imaging, in an announcement. “For this reason, optimal patient outcomes depend on the rapid and accurate diagnosis and treatments that [artificial intelligence] technologies can potentially help provide.”

IBM Watson Health will be responsible for algorithms, curation, data acquisition, imaging expertise. regulatory approvals, and software development, Gruen tells AXIS Imaging News. Algorithms, clinical and medical expertise, contributing to data acquisition, and customers’ insights for agile development will be within Guerbet’s remit.

Gruen also reveals to AXIS that the artificial intelligence tool co-developed by the companies will be appropriate for detecting, segmenting, characterizing, and monitoring prostate lesions over time. “This artificial intelligence approach may allow faster, safer, more timely, and more accurate diagnoses while potentially reducing the number of biopsies, and their associated risks and costs. Earlier identification and improved characterization may also improve treatment options available to physicians,” he says.

While IBM Watson Health brings expertise in artificial intelligence and an established complementary commercial footprint, Guerbet contributes medical expertise and a global commercial footprint—in addition to the company’s relationships with medical imaging experts across five continents, according to Gruen.

“Combining Guerbet’s expertise with IBM Watson Health’s, we believe we can more successfully make a difference in the global fight against prostate cancer,” he adds.

Gruen was unable to share timelines for product testing or availability for this co-development project with Guerbet. But he tells AXIS that the first version of the project plan related to its first agreement with Guerbet, which is focused on supporting clinicians in their diagnosis and monitoring of patients with liver cancer, is on track and the two companies are developing a commercialization plan.

Aine Cryts is a contributing writer for AXIS Imaging News.