Curing Breast Cancer with Early Detection and Technology Advancement

Early diagnosis is one of the most effective ways to overcome this fatal disease. Providing the same solution, Niramai is developing a new way of detecting early-stage breast abnormalities. Incorporated in July 2016, Niramai Health Analytix went operational on 2 January 2017.

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Killing over 87,000 women in India, Breast cancer is the most common cancer, as revealed by Globocan 2018 data. It also unveiled that the incidence rates in India begin to rise in the early thirties and peak at ages 50-64 years. 

Early diagnosis is one of the most effective ways to overcome this fatal disease. Providing the same solution, Niramai is developing a new way of detecting early-stage breast abnormalities. Incorporated in July 2016, Niramai Health Analytix went operational on 2 January 2017.  

BW Businessworld interacted with Dr Geetha Manjunath, CEO & CTO, NIRAMAI, where she discussed the technology and the industry. 

Here are the excerpts: 

NIRAMAI is a deep-tech company where we are creating a revolutionary solution for early-stage breast cancer. We have developed a technique called ‘Thermalytix’ that uses artificial intelligence over thermal images to identify breast abnormalities in a privacy-aware and radiation-free manner. The device is portable and less expensive than current solutions. It shows the high accuracy of women of all age groups. Thermalytix is our patented technology that uses a high-resolution thermal sensing device and our cloud-hosted analytics solution for analyzing the thermal images to automatically generate quantitative reports with medical parameters that can be used by the doctors in their clinical decision. 

How different is Thermalytix from Mammography? 

Thermalytix, the technology developed by NIRAMAI detects breast cancer at a much earlier stage than traditional methods or self-examination. Our solution is non-touch, no radiation, low cost, highly accurate, automated, portable cancer screening tool that can be operated by a simple clinician. Our imaging method is not painful and works for women of all ages, especially younger women whereas Mammography is suitable for women above 40 years of age. Unlike mammography, the test does not involve radiation, and hence can safely conduct once a year or even multiple times in a year, if needed. While the cost of a typical mammogram is around Rs 3500, our partner hospitals offer our solution at less than half that price. We also have a triaging solution based on Thermalytix which is offered at 100 Rs per screening 

How did you come across this technology? 

This solution was developed completely in India by a team of passionate engineers who wanted to solve the issue of breast cancer diagnosis in India. The trigger to start working on this technology research problem was actually two of my close relatives whom I lost to breast cancer at an early age. We started this exploratory project and when we found some early results decided to startup NIRAMAI. 

Which regions in India are using this technology? 

We now have 30+ deployments in 10 Indian cities namely Bangalore, Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bhubaneshwar, Mysore, Pune, Dehradun, and Vadodara. The test is installed in reputed hospitals like HCG and Cloudnine. We plan to expand to other cities in the country this year. In addition, regular screening camps are conducted by our partners and our own screening ops team. 

We recently received clearance from BBMP (Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike) and Bangalore Mayor to conduct the NIRAMAI screening test in all government hospitals in Bangalore. We screened more than 1000 women just in the first 2 months of this drive. We have also won a mandate from the Maharashtra government for deployment in 2 district hospitals there. More deployments in government institutions are planned in Rajasthan, MP, and Kerala, for which we are still awaiting clearances. 

How effective is the technology in India?  

Thermalytix based solution is very effective for the Indian population. We have diagnostic centres that could not afford mammography equipment providing breast screening using the NIRAMAI solution. Some hospitals are offering the solution to women under 45 years, where mammography is not effective. Some are using on pregnant ladies with a complaint in the breast. We have also been successful in conducting several outreach camps in corporate office, apartments and also rural areas. Since the test is privacy-aware, where no one sees or touches the person, women really love the experience of the test. 

What is the market size in the US and India? 

About 2 billion women around the world need to undergo breast health check every year. Only about 10 per cent of them is now being screened with mammography and other imaging modalities. The rest need a new solution that addresses the hurdles of affordability, accessibility, dense breasts and privacy consciousness – which are all addressed by NIRAMAI solution. In addition, Thermalytix solution can also be used for monitoring and follow up of cancer survivors as it is non-invasive and safe. Overall this amounts to about 12 Billion USD of Total Addressable market globally. This is just the breast health market, whereas Thermalytix can potentially be used for several other types of cancer and other abnormalities 

Do the results from this test require different knowledge from mammography/radiology to understand and identification? 

Our report so far did generate a new set of scores that required training of the radiologist or oncologist using the report. However, recently we have released a report format that used the same terminologies as mammography reports and provide a likely BIRAD score that can reduce report-reading training that was needed before. 


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