AstraZeneca brings together key players from private and public healthcare to realise Malaysia’s vision of digitised healthcare solutions for early detection of lung cancer.
The AI X-ray programme will allow for screening and diagnosis of lung cancer at the primary-care level and help improve patient outcomes.
Kuala Lumpur, 20 May 2021 – In conjunction with World No Tobacco Day observed on 31st May, AstraZeneca, a science-driven biopharmaceutical company, has entered into a new partnership with the Lung Cancer Network Malaysia (LCNM) and Qure.ai to provide Artificial Intelligence (AI) X-ray solutions at primary care clinics across Malaysia for the early detection of lung cancer.
Along with partner, the Qualitas Medical Group, this partnership was formalised through a signing ceremony between all four parties, where Datuk Dr Hishamshah Bin Mohd Ibrahim, Deputy Director General Health (Research & Technical Support), Ministry of Health delivered the keynote address virtually.
The collaboration will see AI technology being embedded in the interpretation of x-rays at primary care clinics to enable early detection of lung cancer, thereby improving overall survival and patient outcomes.
In Malaysia, a staggering 90% of lung cancer cases are diagnosed at stage three (locally advanced disease) or stage four (metastatic spread)1,2, firming its position as the second most common cancer and the leading cause of cancer-related mortality2,3 in the country.
Globally, lung cancer continues to be one of the most common cancers, claiming more lives yearly than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined1. This mortality rate is alarmingly reflected closer to home as well. Compared to other forms of cancer, only 9-11% of patients survive five years after being diagnosed with lung cancer2. By identifying patients at an earlier stage, the 5-year survival odds can be improved by as much as 30%2.
For this reason, the AI x-ray technology is being introduced under AstraZeneca and LCNM’s Lung Ambition Malaysia programme to incorporate the use of AI interpretation tools in primary care clinics. The end goal of this multi-stakeholder partnership is to improve referral and diagnostic pathways for patients with possible lung cancers and shift the detection of lung cancer to an earlier stage, which will ultimately improve patient outcomes.
To establish a seamless patient pathway for early detection and referral of lung cancer patients, AstraZeneca will be working closely with LCNM and Qure.ai for the provision and incorporation of AI diagnostics software in 10 selected Qualitas Medical Group primary-care clinics across Malaysia.
With the availability of this AI x-ray technology, physicians are able to identify patients at the onset of the disease – giving them a better chance to provide a curative treatment.
“In line with the Malaysian government’s call for innovation and move towards digital healthcare, this collaboration illustrates our ongoing commitment to integrate innovative new technologies into healthcare and improve outcomes for society. Innovations such as the AI x-ray analysis tools are critical for boosting the capabilities of the local healthcare system. We hope the integration of the AI x-ray solution at the primary care clinics will improve referral and timely diagnosis of patients with possible lung cancer and eventually, reduce lung cancer mortality rates in Malaysia,” said Dr Sanjeev Panchal, Country President, AstraZeneca Malaysia.
“The studies are clear; if we can diagnose patients at an early stage (Stage I), we can double their 5-year survival rate. This is our end goal for lung cancer management in Malaysia, and with the combined expertise and collaboration of our partners, we are confident that it is something we can achieve,” Dr Sanjeev further stated.
How the AI X-ray Technology Will Save Lives
The collaboration will see each partner play an essential role in the screening, diagnosis, referral and treatment of potential lung cancer patients.
AstraZeneca has undertaken the role of providing and funding the installation of Qure.ai’s AI software in 10 primary care clinics under the Qualitas Medical Group across Malaysia. These clinics have been carefully selected by LCNM as the first point of contact for potential lung cancer patients.
Patients who opt to visit any of the 10 selected clinics will be evaluated and recommended for analysis at the discretion of the Qualitas Medical Group’s in-house primary care physicians. Once identified, these patients will be screened using a traditional chest x-ray. The x-ray will then be evaluated and interpreted using Qure.ai’s AI software which will provide a comprehensive report within 30 seconds to support and empower primary care physicians in their diagnosis, while reducing the possibility of a missed or delayed diagnosis.
Subsequently, high-risk, or suspected lung cancer patients will be referred to lung specialists at selected tertiary hospitals who will be supporting the AI X-ray for Lung Cancer Diagnostics screening programme including Hospital Serdang, Beacon Hospital, Prince Court Medical Centre, Subang Jaya Medical Centre and Sunway Medical Centre for more accurate diagnostic testing using a low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) and further intervention.
“Lung cancer treatment and prognosis is very stage-dependant hence the importance of a timely diagnosis. Utilising deep learning AI technology, we hope to expedite diagnosis with rapid referral to a relevant specialist. Ultimately, we hope to achieve stage shift and detect more early-stage disease that is amenable to curative treatment,” said Dr Anand Sachithanandan, President, Lung Cancer Network Malaysia.
To date, the AI X-ray for Lung Cancer Diagnostics programme has screened over 200 patients and aims to achieve a goal of 25,000 total patients screened through the programme.
AstraZeneca (LSE/STO/Nasdaq: AZN) is a global, science-led biopharmaceutical company that focuses on the discovery, development and commercialisation of prescription medicines, primarily for the treatment of diseases in three therapy areas – Oncology, Cardiovascular, Renal & Metabolism, and Respiratory & Immunology. Based in Cambridge, UK, AstraZeneca operates in over 100 countries and its innovative medicines are used by millions of patients worldwide. Please visit astrazeneca.com and follow the Company on Twitter @AstraZeneca.
Lung Cancer Network Malaysia (LCNM)
Lung Cancer Network Malaysia (LCNM) is a non-commercial, national level disease-centric non-governmental organisation (NGO) dedicated solely and exclusively to addressing all aspects and all stages of lung cancer here in Malaysia including preventative strategies, screening of high-risk individuals, diagnosis, staging and treatment with both a curative and palliative intent. Our multi-disciplinary network includes highly trained medical specialists (from the public and private healthcare sectors) and allied healthcare professionals including dietitians, pharmacists, physiotherapists and psychologists. LCNM seeks to improve outcomes through advocacy, education and awareness for both the Malaysian public and primary care (general practice) doctors. We aim to promote evidence based scientific recommendations in an unbiased and easily understood manner to help patients and their families, doctors and other caregivers better navigate their treatment journey.
Headquartered in Mumbai, India, with US operations based in New York, Qure.ai is a breakthrough Artificial Intelligence (AI) solution that is disrupting the radiology ‘status quo’ by enhancing imaging accuracy and improving health outcomes with the assistance of machine-supported tools. Qure.ai taps deep learning technology to provide automated interpretation of radiology exams like x-rays, CTs and MRI scans for time and resource-strapped medical imaging professionals – enabling faster diagnosis and speed to treatment. Qure.ai is helping to make healthcare more accessible and affordable to patients worldwide.
Qualitas Medical Group
Qualitas Medical Group (Qualitas) is one of the leading primary healthcare providers in Malaysia as well as across the Asia Pacific Region that offers a comprehensive range of primary healthcare services. Founded in 1997, Qualitas was formed with the aim of developing an integrated network of primary healthcare practices to deliver quality healthcare to the community, in a cost-effective manner. Today, Qualitas operates a wide network of General Practice (GP) clinics, as well as dentist clinics, diagnostic and pathology centres across the Asia Pacific region supported by over 1,300 medical doctors, dentists and supporting personnel, backed by more than 250 medical clinics, dental clinics (including a dental laboratory), medical imaging centres, pathology lab and a fertility centre in the region. For more information, please contact us at email@example.com or visit our website at www.qualitashealth.com.my
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1. World Health Organisation. Cancer. Available at https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/cancer. Last accessed January 19, 2021.
2. Journal of Thoracic Oncology. Lung Cancer in Malaysia. Available from https://www.jto.org/article/S1556-0864(19)33639-1/fulltext. Last accessed January 19, 2021.
3. Stewart BW and Wild CP (2014). World Cancer Report 2014. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer.