Launching a real-time AI solution for early throat cancer detection

Senior otolaryngologist making endoscopic examination of a nose for a young patient at the ENT office

Marius Wellenstein, COO and co-Founder of WSK Medical, explains the successful launch and implementation of Zeno AI, a real-time AI solution for early throat cancer detection

WSK Medical is an innovative software company that focuses exclusively on developing leading-edge artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to assist clinicians and doctors in the quest for early cancer detection. The company aims to create the most advanced, flexible AI technologies to improve patient cancer care.

What Is Zeno AI?

Zeno AI is a unique AI solution developed by WSK Medical. Unique in the sense that WSK Medical is the first in the world to develop and implement an AI solution for real-time (early) detection of throat cancer at the outpatient clinic of two renowned ENT-departments in the Netherlands, with a third planned for October. Last May, Zeno AI was presented at the Dutch ENT-congress, where almost all ENT doctors in the Netherlands (482) were present. In addition to the current three ENT-departments, WSK Medical has identified several additional Dutch ENT-departments before making the jump to the EU and UK markets.

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Image 1: diagram how Zeno AI works

Why is Zeno AI Relevant for ENT-Surgeons?

So, why is Zeno AI developed in the first place? Identifying and classifying benign and premalignant laryngeal tumours is difficult, even for oncology specialists. In only 30% of the cases, a trained specialist can identify and classify the tissue correctly (for regular medical doctors, this is even harder). In the other 70% of the cases, out of pre-caution, specialists recommend that medical doctors perform a surgery (a biopsy or invasive complete tissue removal under general anesthesia).

With the scarcity of specialists, and medical personnel in general, (re)training medical doctors & personnel towards becoming specialists will put additional strain on the healthcare system and on patient cancer care. Zeno AI will, on the basis of AI, assist medical professionals (without retraining them) with the real-time flagging of tumour (like) tissue structures during and endoscopic examination of the larynx.

Differentiating between benign (for example, cysts, polyps, papillomatosis) and malignant (i.e., cancer) laryngeal tissue-structures based on the number, sizes, tissue textures, patterns and colours. By aiding the clinician in (1) the choice of whether or not to perform an invasive procedure, (2) time to diagnosis and (3) time to treatment can be reduced. Reducing diagnosis time and increasing the ability to set a diagnosis, results in the ability to process more patients per time unit, reduce the number of (patient) hospital visits, reduce strain on patients and increase patient survival (as many cancers are beatable when detected and treated early). In that way, Zeno will support making and keeping healthcare accessible, affordable and efficient.

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Image 2: Zeno AI detecting and identifying Carcinoma


What Zeno AI does best

What does Zeno AI offer ENT-surgeons? Zeno AI assists an ENT-surgeon in real-time and instantly can locate and classify what it detects during the endoscopic examination that is being performed. This gives ENT-surgeons instant feedback on the tissue it detects, therefore, adding valuable knowledge that is not always instantly available.

The fact that Zeno AI can be fully integrated into the clinical workflow, means that the work of ENT-surgeons does not change in a practical sense. Besides this practical advantage, the real added value of Zeno AI is that it’s able to detect, identify and classify laryngeal tissue in real-time, therefore, providing crucial information to the ENT-surgeon while performing the endoscopic examination. Providing this information in real-time, saves valuable time to diagnose laryngeal tissue and, therefore, a faster care plan for patients. As a result, both the patient and the healthcare system are not burdened unnecessarily, and the treatment time is brought back from weeks to the same day.

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Image 3: Zeno AI detecting and identifying an Anomaly (benign)

Human-machine collaboration

Zeno AI functions as a smart assistant and only provides a second opinion instead of a direct diagnosis. Zeno AI complies with all laws and regulations for medical devices (CE-MDR). In addition, Zeno AI only offers the user a prediction of the result and no direct diagnosis. The responsibility, therefore, rests entirely with the treating physician.

WSK Medical believes in a human- machine collaboration, where the human is at the helm. In addition, Zeno AI is only focused on the larynx as input and cannot be influenced by other factors, so that no outcome bias can arise in the given result. Its purpose is to assist, not replace.

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