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February 4, 2022

AI ‘Fingerprinting’ Fights Back Against Hard-to-Detect Cancers

Hard-to-detect cancers like glioblastoma can have survival rates in the single-digit percentages and require elaborate techniques to detect, treat, and monitor. Reveal Surgical is working on changing that reality through its new, AI-based Sentry technology, which leverages a combination of AI and Raman spectroscopy to provide real-time tissue diagnostics during surgery for otherwise-invisible tumors.

Raman spectroscopy is the use of light scattering from a laser to detect molecular structures and compositions of a material—in this case, tissue. Chris Kent, CEO of Reveal Surgical, explained that the company uses Raman spectroscopy (which is an optical, non-invasive imaging technique) to “fingerprint” different types of tumors, allowing doctors to fingerprint a tissue sample and compare it to those on record via Reveal’s software.

“We’ve basically designed a cancer fingerprinting machine and a database of fingerprints in our system, via … Raman spectroscopy,” Kent said. “We’re able to offer doctors real-time molecular data about the tumor they’re encountering in vivo.”

Reveal says that it’s collected thousands of these fingerprints across hundreds of patients and many different kinds of tissue. Then, Reveal built a predictive AI classifier using those fingerprints—which, of course, is getting more accurate over time as more fingerprints are taken and processed by the system.

“Now, when a surgeon examines suspicious tissue, the ‘fingerprint’ they detect will go back to the database,” Kent said. “Our AI is able to sift through more than 14,000 measurements we have obtained across five different cancer types and tell you if something is or isn’t cancer.”

The classifier is able to identify otherwise hard-to-detect cancerous tissues in real time, which could enable surgeons to remove more of a cancerous mass during surgery than they otherwise would have.

Right now, Reveal is focused on identifying brain cancers (like the aforementioned glioblastoma) that prove exceptionally difficult to detect (due to the invasiveness and intricacies of brain surgeries and imaging) and dangerous (due to their location). But, the company says, the technology is agnostic, and they are exploring uses of the Sentry technology for prostate cancer, lung cancer, and gynecological applications, and Reveal’s website also mentions possible applications for breast tissue analysis.

“We see our job as a way to help usher in this next wave of data-driven surgery,” Kent said. “The beauty of AI is that it’s effectively collaboration at large. It collects data [on] an ongoing basis and benefits from the experience of every surgeon that has ever used it.”

Currently, the Sentry tool is for investigational use only.

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