National Cancer Institute invests $4 million in Pathcore

There’s a tremendous amount of precision required from pathologists when they make cancer diagnoses, and the results of their work are literally a matter of life or death.

But technology developed by University of Toronto startup Pathcore™ is making the tedious and complex task of reading potentially cancerous tissue samples faster and more accurate.

“We free pathologists from counting cells, searching for those hard-to-find areas through a microscope, and doing other repetitive tasks that software can do faster and better,” said Dan Hosseinzadeh, CEO and co-founder of Pathcore. “Ultimately, that means improved patient care.”

The value of Pathcore’s technology has been recognized around the world; most recently by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the U.S. government’s principal agency for cancer research and training. It will be part of NCI’s platform for cancer informatics, a field that brings together information science, computer science and health care to aid in all aspects of cancer prevention and treatment. The NCI initiative brings together teams from across the United States with a single goal: to share information and advance this important field of expertise.

The $4M (CAD) development project involves six leading cancer centres from across Canada and the U.S. and will allow the startup to expand the translating and validating of automated cancer diagnostics into clinical tools.

Pathcore’s free downloadable software is already being used in over 100 institutions in more than 22 countries with the NCI funding promising to extend that reach even further.

With this investment, Pathcore will be expanding their software – the Sedeen Viewer – which allows researchers to view, annotate and overlay images to make data collection and analysis easy. The Sedeen Viewer also gives researchers access to built-in analysis tools and allows them to write their own algorithms – basically complex computer programs – to detect cancerous tissues.

“This will accelerate the translation of cutting edge research to patient care by allowing the developers of sophisticated analysis software to distribute their work directly to clinicians,” said Anne Martel, Pathcore’s co-founder and associate professor at U of T. “The NIH rarely allow funding to go to non-US labs, even more unusual is for them to fund work done by a foreign company, so this is a testament to the unique strengths of the Pathcore platform.”

The Sedeen Viewer is complemented by Pathcore Web, a cloud-based app that allows pathologists to access their cases anytime and anywhere so urgent cases don’t have to wait.

“With a digital platform for viewing tissue slides, pathologists can review cases within their team or consult with other institutions quickly and effectively so that the best people can always be involved,” said Hosseinzadeh.

Pathcore Web works on both desktop and mobile devices, making diagnosis a tap away.

“U of T is a research powerhouse and one of the things that we love to see is that research being translated into real and practical solutions,” said Karen Sievewright, managing director of the Banting & Best Centre for Innovation & Entrepreneurship.

“Pathcore is a great example of how scientific research can be commercialized and applied to a platform that benefits healthcare practitioners, and in turn patients, around the world.” 

Based in the Impact Centre, one of U of T’s nine campus-linked accelerators, Pathcore is a spin-off from research that began in 2006 supported by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and Sunnybrook Research Institute.

"We know the product works," said Hosseinzadeh. “Now we want to get it into more institutions worldwide.”