In the era of modern medicine, pathology stands as a crucial pillar in the fight against cancer. The American Cancer Society estimates more than 1.9 million new cancer cases were diagnosed in 2021. The ability to accurately diagnose and characterize tumor cells plays a pivotal role in guiding treatment decisions and, ultimately, improving patient outcomes. Medical technology brand CytoBay is helping make that possible.
According to CEO and co-founder Olivia Chu, the company leverages liquid immunocytochemistry (LICC), paired with an advanced artificial intelligence (AI) enumeration interface, to help pathologists more easily screen for bladder cancer. An estimated 82,290 patients will be diagnosed with the condition this year.
Pathology is an essential step in cancer diagnosis and treatment. CytoBay’s technology makes identifying and diagnosing cancer cells easier in cytology or liquid samples. According to Chu, current screening methodologies completely ignore cytology even though it holds critical information for patient diagnosis and prognosis. CytoBay’s approach, developed in collaboration with Chu’s father, Dr. Wenjiang Chu, sidesteps this limitation. By refining the immuno-staining process, CytoBay enhances the visibility of tumor markers in addition to leveraging a proprietary AI algorithm.
The marriage of staining enhancements with AI-powered analysis expedites and refines tumor detection. CytoBay’s algorithms swiftly identify and quantify cancer cells through machine learning, providing accurate risk assessments for doctors and patients.
“What really ties us together is the vision and how big and important this project can be. It can potentially turn cancer into a chronic disease rather than something that can kill you,” Chu points out. This vision has culminated in a groundbreaking fusion of traditional pathology with cutting-edge technology, enabling accuracy and efficiency that can help improve patient outcomes.
Early detection can dramatically increase a person’s chance of survival. However, research suggests that 50 percent of cancer diagnoses are made at advanced stages of the disease. As Chu explains, improved screening techniques can drastically increase the opportunity of detecting the presence of cancer sooner.
“There are many potentially powerful testing options, like urine tests, blood tests, and fine needle aspiration biopsies (FNAs), that are underutilized in the medical field because there’s just no way to apply chemical stains in liquid samples,” says Chu. “We’ve not only made them visible, but doctors can also find them easily with the AI algorithm.”
CytoBay’s amalgamation of advanced staining and AI analysis enables the identification of even low-grade tumors, facilitating cancer detection in its nascent stages. This, in turn, empowers medical professionals to intervene earlier, potentially saving more lives and improving the long-term prognosis of their patients.
The technology can also help streamline the screening process, starting with bladder cancer. Increasing the efficiency, precision, and availability of cancer testing can also shift the screening from a reactive assessment to an essential step in preventive care. This can reduce the burden of late-stage treatments, says Chu, and enhance overall patient well-being.
The company received patents for its technology in 2021. Following a promising clinical study with Peking University in early 2023, Chu and her father partnered with a manufacturer to commence production of CytoBay’s prototype. The flagship product, an automated liquid ICC machine, is designed to integrate into current pathology practices with high throughput capacity and a three-hour turnaround time.
Initial testing shows case-by-case accuracies of 98 percent and success in classifying all low-grade cases, validating its potential to reshape cancer diagnostics. In contrast, today’s typical lab accuracies for low-grade tumors vary from 3 to 40 percent, with an overall 60 percent accuracy rating.
The origins of CytoBay’s liquid ICC technology started at an intriguing conversation with Chu’s parents at a family dinner, as the science-minded family quickly identified a unique opportunity at the intersection of computational science and pathology. Her father and eventual co-founder brought with him two decades in the pathology industry, where he oversaw laboratory operations at some of the country’s largest consumer medical brands.
While CytoBay’s impact on bladder cancer diagnosis is already remarkable, Chu and her father believe their patented LICC process can help other patients. The company’s roadmap expands its technology to encompass a broader spectrum of cancer types, including breast and lung cancer.
According to Chu, CytoBay plans to offer a direct-to-consumer screening option. “There are up to one million people unknowingly living with cancer in the United States. Early intervention is invaluable, so we want to make it easy and accessible,” she explains.
CytoBay’s at-home testing kits would allow users to collect liquid samples in the privacy of their own homes and mail them in for testing. The company estimates it can turn results around in one week, providing customers with a risk assessment and detailed explanation of potential next steps to take with their primary care providers.
As CytoBay plans to launch to the broader medical community in late 2023, the company’s steadfast commitment to research and development remains paramount. Chu recognizes that sustained innovation and research are pivotal in elevating the field of pathology and diagnostics. But CytoBay’s fusion of advanced staining and AI algorithms is already reshaping how we diagnose and treat cancer. Learn more about CytoBay’s advancements at cytobay.com.