French imaging company SuperSonic Imagine thinks its new imaging systems can change the biopsy game for the better, according to an interview with founder and chief strategic and innovation officer Jacques Souquet.
SuperSonic Imagine’s flagship device is the Aixplorer ultrasound imaging device which uses the company’s proprietary ShearWave elastography and UltraFast Doppler blood flow imaging.
Unlike other similar devices, SuperSonic’s uses software processing coupled with powerful processing boards produced by graphics company Nvidia, according to SuperSonic.
“Being able to simplify things changed the paradigm of the system, which is very much hardware centric, to a system where the intelligence is in the software. We built the software system – every function that is developed in hardware’s competitive environment is now in a software environment,” Souquet told MassDevice.com in an interview
While the idea isn’t unique to SuperSonic, Souquet said it is a 1st in medical imaging. The device, running off software, is able to analyze up to 20,000 frames per second. The number is too high for a human to visualize, but allows the software to do more with the data, Souquet said.
“Now, you cannot visualize 20,000 frames per second, but this enables us to do lots of processing in the background to further enhance the performance of the product. It also enabled us to create a new mode of imaging on top of the conventional mode every ultrasound does. This new mode enables us to measure the stiffness of tissue,” Souquet said.
The new mode allows doctors, who normally manually diagnose stiff tissue through physical touch and pressure, to find stiff tissue with a non-invasive ultrasound imaging device and reduce the possibility of invasive biopsies to verify their diagnosis.
“We can do it in a reproducible way and we can do it in a quantitative way. We do not depend on the expertise or skill of a physician to do it, it’s entirely automatic,” Souquet said.
To test the technology’s potential, the company initially focused on early breast cancer detection. In a clinical study, 1,800 patients were scanned with the device and the scans were compared with biopsies from the same patients.
Souquet said that through the trial, the company found the device was accurate, gave reproducible results and could more specifically characterize the lesions as benign or malignant without losing any sensitivity to stiff tissue on the whole.
“It’s important to look at the breast biopsies in the United States. There are around 2 million biopsies in the U.S. nowadays. Of those biopsies, in 80% of them there is no cancer found. So you submit the patients to lots of anxiety, and on top of that there’s added cost to healthcare, as breast biopsies are not always needle punctures and are sometimes surgical,” Souquet said.
The American College of Radiology now includes ShearWave scans in their guidelines for breast cancer detection with ultrasound, Souquet said.
SuperSonic has since expanded the reach of the device, including detecting liver fibrosis, screening for prostate cancer, and for vascular indications using UltraFast Doppler. The company is looking at expanding to gynecological indications as well.
The result of its expanded indications has been a severe reduction in biopsies, Souquet said. Baylor, Texas-based liver expert Dr. James Trotter has reported a 90% reduction in biopsies since adopting SuperSonic’s Aixplorer, according to the company.
This reduction in biopsies to screen for liver fibrosis is important to the company, Souquet said.
“Liver biopsies are very painful, and the amount of complications out of liver biopsies is very high. It’s important now, with the invention of drugs, such as Hepatitis C drugs, to be able to monitor the patient during treatment,” Souquet said.
Souquet said the company’s devices are in more than 1,000 facilities worldwide and hopes the number will continue to grow.
The company is developing a next-generation modular platform for the device, which would allow the company to sell to more segments on the ultrasound market, Souquet said.