US LABS brings cancer centre quality diagnostic capabilities to every physician's computer

Irvine 20 September 2004Bringing the skill and tools from far-flung experts to the community-based physician and the patient's bedside has become a reality in Virtual Image, a new Internet-based analysis system from US LABS, the United States' fastest-growing cancer diagnostic laboratory. Announced at the College of American Pathologists' Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, Virtual Image is designed to assist community-based physicians to rapidly and accurately define the prognosis of breast cancer patients.

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Virtual Image, a part of the US LABS Virtual Laboratory Suite, is the first on-line clinical analysis tool that allows any pathologist anywhere on any computer to perform analysis on breast tissue samples of both nuclear and membrane antigens at 20X magnification using sophisticated image analysis techniques. Multiple physicians can view the images simultaneously from different computers. This means that the doctors closest to the patient now have a high-tech medical capability at their immediate disposal; this technology would formerly have been available only to leading medical institutions.

According to Dr. Nils Diaz, Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, Florida, "Virtual Image is a real breakthrough in telepathology. With 20X magnification and advanced image analysis algorithms, this tool allows pathologists to analyse at the cellular level exactly as they would at their own microscope. Turnaround time for indicators of prognosis and response to therapy for breast cancer patients is greatly reduced."

Virtual Image was made possible by advances in both medical imaging and computer technology. A slide containing the patient's tissue sample is initially scanned at US LABS using the advanced Aperio instrument that creates an image of the entire specimen at 20X magnification in six to eight minutes. After undergoing a three-tier quality-assurance process, the image is streamed to pathologists using 33 MB high-speed microwave technology. The password-protected image is available to the physician within hours of arrival of the sample at US LABS. To have access to such images in the past, pathologists had to rely on mail delivery of large files on DVDs, and of course, such images would not have interactive capability that the Internet affords.

Using Virtual Image, pathologists can quantify the nuclear analysis for estrogen receptor (ER), KI-67, p53 and progesterone receptor (PR) characteristics, and membrane analysis for HER2 characteristics found in many aggressive cancers. While reviewing the tissue sample on-line, the pathologist has complete control of how it is analysed using a combination of manual and automated image analysis techniques.

"The focus of cellular antigen expression and easy-to-use visual application tools of virtual image analysis", stated Dr. James Thompson, a US LABS pathologist who specializes in breast cancer, "provides pathologists with a high degree of confidence in the automated scoring, truly assuring that the patient receives the best of both worlds - human perception and computer objectivity." Following analysis, the pathologist can generate a customized report complete with images for the oncologist or surgeon.

"The charter of US LABS from the beginning has centred in our partnerships with community-based pathologists", stated Judd Jessup, chief executive officer, US LABS. "Rather than trying to centralize medical expertise in a few laboratories and medical centres, we are committed to strengthening medicine much closer to the bedside. Virtual Image is a huge step in this partnership. Community pathologists have expertise and through US LABS they now have access to new innovative tools."

Virtual Image is a simple subscription service charged at $200 per year or $20 per month for unlimited usage to qualified physicians. Irvine-based US LABS is a national, anatomic pathology reference laboratory devoted to comprehensive, high-quality, rapid-response cancer testing. The company provides diagnostic, prognostic, and predictive cancer testing services to hospitals, physician offices and surgery centres.


Leslie Versweyveld

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