ABUS Boosts Breast Screening

Automated breast ultrasound led to sharp increases in cancer detection rates and sensitivity when it was performed as a supplement to screening digital mammography in a study of Asian women. 

In Radiology, researchers from South Korea explain the shortcomings of X-ray-based mammography, which has limited sensitivity in women with dense breast tissue. Handheld ultrasound can be used as a screening supplement, but it has drawbacks of its own, such as longer exam time and operator variability. 

ABUS has been proposed as an alternative, acquiring 3D volumes of the entire breast in an automated mode that’s more structured and standardized. ABUS also provides coronal-plane images that can help differentiate malignant from benign lesions.

But most of the studies validating ABUS have been conducted on Western women, and Asian women tend to have mammographically denser breasts.

So researchers decided to test ABUS as a supplement to digital mammography with 2,301 South Korean women who were screened from 2018 to 2019. Women were first screened with digital mammography (either Hologic’s Selenia Dimensions or Siemens Healthineers’ Mammomat Revelation), then received ABUS scans with GE HealthCare’s Invenia ABUS system. 

For women with dense breasts, screening with ABUS and DM turned in better performance than DM alone in multiple categories, including:

  • Higher cancer detection rate per 1,000 screening exams (9.3 vs. 6.5)
  • Better sensitivity (90.9% vs. 63.6%)
  • Higher AUC (0.89 vs. 0.79)
  • Detection of smaller cancers, with a mean size of 1.2 cm vs. 2.3 cm

On the down side, ABUS + DM in women with dense breasts had lower specificity (86.8% vs. 94.6%), driving higher biopsy rates (3.3% vs. 1.9%) and false-positive biopsy rates (2.4% vs. 1.3%).

The Takeaway

In a time when breast cancer inequities are under the microscope, the new study provides encouraging news that imaging technology can help compensate for the shortcomings of the traditional “one size fits all” paradigm of breast screening. 

The results are also a shot in the arm for ABUS as it seeks to cement a role as a complement to X-ray-based screening mammography, although work remains to be done in improving specificity and recall rates.

iSono Health’s Wearable Breast Ultrasound

iSono Health announced the FDA clearance of its ATUSA automated wearable 3D breast ultrasound system, a first-of-its-kind device that taps into some of the biggest trends in imaging.

The wearable ATUSA system automatically captures the entire breast volume, producing standardized/repeatable breast ultrasound exams in two minutes without requiring a trained operator. The scanner combines with iSono’s ATUSA Software Suite to support real-time 2D visualization, advanced 3D visualization and localization, and AI integration (including iSono’s forthcoming AI tools). That positions the ATUSA for a range of interesting use cases:

  • Enhancing routine exams in primary care and women’s health clinics
  • Expanding breast imaging access in developing countries
  • Supporting longitudinal monitoring for higher-risk women
  • Allowing remote breast cancer monitoring

iSono might have to overcome some pretty big biases regarding how and where providers believe breast exams are supposed to take place. However, the ATUSA’s intended use cases and value propositions have already been gaining momentum across imaging.

  • The rapid expansion of handheld POCUS systems and AI guidance solutions has made ultrasound an everyday tool for far more clinicians than just a few years ago.
  • Wearable imaging continues to be an innovation hotspot, including a range of interesting projects that are developing imaging helmets, patches, and even a few other wearable breast ultrasound systems.
  • There’s a growing focus on addressing the developing world’s imaging gap with portable imaging systems.
  • We’re seeing greater momentum towards technology-enabled enhancements to routine breast exams, including Siemens Healthineers’ recent move to distribute UE LifeSciences’ iBreastExam device (uses vibrations, not imaging).
  • At-home imaging is becoming a far more realistic idea, with commercial initiatives from companies like Butterfly and Pulsenmore in place, and earlier-stage efforts from other breast ultrasound startups. 

The Takeaway

iSono Health has a long way to go before it earns an established role in breast cancer pathways. However, the ATUSA’s use cases and value proposition are well aligned with some of imaging’s biggest trends, and there’s still plenty of demand to improve breast imaging access and efficiency across the world.

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