A new approach to detect breast tumors
In 2014, Satish Kandlikar developed an idea of how to identify breast cancer earlier. The concept was developed with three clinicians from Rochester General Hospital, Drs. Phatak, Dabydeen and Medeiros. Overall, the goal was to take infrared imaging technology to capture images – as a supplement to current solutions for breast cancer screening. Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) purchased a $110,000 infrared camera and Kandlikar got started.
Kandlikar is the president and CEO of Bired Imaging Inc. He also is the Gleason Professor of Mechanical Engineering at RIT.
Bired Imaging’s technology identifies the size and location of breast tumors by using thermography as well as a proprietary computerized detection algorithm. Since the approach uses a low-cost technology, it can reduce patient discomfort and unnecessary biopsies. It identifies tumors with dense breast tissue (estimated at 40 percent of women) and is non-intrusive, accurate and low cost.
The technique uses natural heat emitted by the body and does not require the breast to be compressed. In order do this testing, a patient must lie down on an imaging table. This technology was developed through collaborative efforts between RIT researchers and Rochester General Hospital clinicians.
“We are working hard to develop more refined prototypes and undertake large-scale clinical testing,” Kandlikar says. “We are excited to bring this innovative technology to our collective fight against breast cancer.”
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and is the second leading cause of cancer death. It is estimated that 13 percent of women will get breast cancer during their lifetime. The American Cancer Society estimates there are 276,000 new cases and 42,000 deaths related to the disease annually. In screening mammography, some 33 percent of cancers are missed. That’s where Bired’s approach steps in.
Screenings are essential for detecting cancer early on. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce unnecessary biopsies and the related patient anxiety. What’s new about this approach of Bired Imaging is that a digital model of the image is taken. Because malignant tumors give off heat (unlike benign tumors), they can be digitally identified.
The Bired Imaging technology has gone through initial validation in a clinical setting. In 2016, Kandlikar secured a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation through its Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research program. These early efforts were assessed by an institutional review board. Kandlikar and three other founders own the patent for the technology.
“Today, mammography is the gold standard. Tomorrow, it will be too,” Kandlikar says. “The beauty of this is that it is not as expensive as ultrasound and computer analysis does the work for you; you don’t have to go through the biopsy process.”
The next step for Bired Imaging: a large-scale clinical test with hospitals and breast centers. Kandlikar views this as a winning solution for patients who won’t be subjected to biopsies without reason and lower costs for insurers.
“We have been issued a U.S. patent. However, my goal is to develop a finished project,” Kandilkar says. “We are looking for non-diluted funding and applying for small-business loans.”
Bired Imaging currently employs a full-time staffer who is refining the software. The technology has been used with 30 people so far. It needs to extend to thousands of people to be a valid procedure.
“With this approach, there is mathematical software which will give the exact location of the tumor,” Kandilkar says. “No other system does that right now.”