The current standard of care for prostate cancer uses a one-size-fits-all approach, treating cancer as a disease of the entire gland, even though prostate cancer is incredibly localized. This is the problem that Shyam Natarajan, co-founder and CEO Avenda Hi, wants to turn around.
His approach involves personalizing prostate cancer care with artificial intelligence. Avenda received a $10 million raise last week.
Culver City, California-based Avenda, founded in 2017 as a UCLA spinout, closed
One in 7 men are at risk of prostate cancer, up from 1 in 8 last year, Natarajan said. Despite the prevalence of the disease, urologists have seen no recent advances in prostate cancer treatment, he said. The current standard of care for prostate cancer involves surgery and radiation, and in some cases, simply monitoring the cancer through annual biopsies to ensure it has not spread aggressively. AWill these treatments damage critical structures that control sexual and urinary function or require additional therapy within five years.
Although advances in diagnostics have given urologists a way to localize prostate cancer, these clinicians still have no idea of the true extent of the disease, Natarajan said. He said Avenda’s mission is to personalize treatment to the patient and their specific case to preserve quality of life and prevent cancer recurrence.
“We want to create a clearer path to personalization and precision targeting in prostate cancer care by improving overall tumor control and quality of life, regardless of how they respond to treatment,” Natarajan said.
Avenda’s cloud platform, iQuest, uses a patient’s own diagnostic information, such as imaging or a precision biopsy, to determine the extent of disease and create a cancer probability map with optimal treatment margins. The platform’s algorithms are trained on hundreds of thousands of diagnostic patient data points, including MRI data, pathology data and other clinical information, Natarajan said. He declared that Avenda performed multiple validations on a completely unique data set that the algorithm had never seen before to account for possible deviations, and said that the company would update the algorithm at regular intervals to account for any changes seen in patient population.
The company also offers a focal laser ablation system called FocalPoint, which is designed to treat localized prostate cancer in urology offices under local anesthesia instead of MRI. The Food and Drug Administration get permission for the system for soft tissue ablation in 2020
Earlier this month Avenda received FDA investigational device clearance for use of FocalPoint and iQuest together. Basically, the approval allows Avenda to combine the two technologies in a clinical trial to demonstrate that together they do a better job of treating prostate cancer than standard care.
“Urologists today have a number of different energy sources that they can use in the prostate, but the challenge is knowing who to treat, where to treat and how to identify success,” Natarajan said. “More broadly, the standard of care today includes MRI and biopsy to diagnose a patient with prostate cancer, which does not reliably reveal tumor grade alone.”
Natarajan said Avenda’s ability to provide decision support as well as customization in targeted prostate cancer therapy makes it hyper-focused, which sets it apart from other oncology AI software companies such as Click on Therapeutics and Enlitic.
Photo: National Cancer Institute