Integrating lab diagnostics, imaging and IT

In vivo and in vitro diagnoses combine in new innovation

Working in partnership to integrate diagnostic imaging, laboratory diagnostics and IT, the Hospital Clinic Barcelona and Siemens Healthcare aim to develop innovative systems to prevent, treat and follow-up for various pathologies.

Francisco Belil
Francisco Belil

The project will make Hospital Clinic Barcelona the world’s only medical center to apply in vitro and in vivo technology to healthcare in an integrated manner. Eduardo de la Sota Guimón MD discussed the new project with Francisco Belil, CEO of Siemens Spain and the South West Cluster. ‘Our goal is to implement projects that allow the integration of models that combine clinical information with that obtained from diagnostic imaging (in vivo) and laboratory (in vitro) systems,’ he explained. ‘Implementation of these projects will generate innovative solutions for all aspects of healthcare, including prophylaxis, early detection, diagnosis, therapy and treatment. Initially our work will focus on foetal medicine, colon cancer and hepatic cirrhosis.’
Colon cancer
In the last decade, colon cancer management has made tremendous strides, largely due to optimized chemotherapy protocols and the advent of new drugs. However, some patients do not respond to these agents, which provoke adverse effects that are serious in some cases. Hence the identification of biomarkers with the capacity to predict patient response to various chemotherapy treatments is a key challenge in the field of oncology. Our project aims to make advances in this area, since it will involve efforts to identify predictive molecular markers for patient response to treatment using 5-fluoruracil and oxaliplati, both of which are commonly used to treat colorectal cancer. These markers will allow for more targeted and personalized chemotherapy by enabling doctors to (a) determine which patients are most likely to benefit from the drugs, and (b) offer alternative therapies to likely non-responders. The experience and prestige of our Colorectal Cancer Unit (whose national and international activities are coordinated Dr Castell), combined with Siemens’ technological capacity and leadership in the field of biomedical technology, will be a tremendous help in achieving our goals. Moreover, this partnership demonstrates yet again that public-private partnerships can provide direct patient benefits.’
Hepatic cirrhosis
‘This project will involve research aimed at developing and testing non-invasive markers for hepatic cirrhosis. Hepatic biopsy is the most commonly used and widely accepted method for determining hepatic fibrosis gradients. However, since this method is extremely invasive and involves a certain amount of risk for the patient, its use is restricted. Moreover, it has proven difficult to assess the efficacy of the various anti-fibrinogen drugs used to forestall fibrosis. The project will aim to develop a system that combines biochemical methods with image analyses with a view to determining fibrosis gradients accurately and reproducibly in patients with hepatic disorders. The new system will also allow for evaluation of fibrosis gradients in a manner that excludes the risks associated with the invasive methods that are currently used.’
Foetal medicine
Foetal disorders and other problems during pregnancy can provoke lifelong sequelae that have a major impact on the quality of life of the patients affected. The capacity to access the foetus is a crucial precondition for efficacious diagnosis and treatment of foetal disorders. Inasmuch as the foetus is in the womb, diagnostic prenatal investigations necessitate the use of highly sophisticated imaging technology and highly specific biomarkers. An international reference centre for foetal pathology and surgery, Hospital Clinic has a multidisciplinary group of clinicians whose scientific achievements are among the best in Europe. This research group, which is headed by Dr Eduard Gratacós, has the necessary expertise for, and is thoroughly conversant with, the relevant foetal diagnostic methods. The group hopes to combine these methods with Siemens’ technological capacity, with a view to developing solutions that can be applied as expeditiously as possible in real clinical settings to improve the quality of life of foetuses and their mothers. The group’s research will centre on chromosome defects, growth retardation, and preclampsia. The most promising areas for the development of methods for early diagnosis of the aforementioned maternal and foetal pathologies are biomarkers, new algorithms, and the development of new imaging methods to analyse the foetal brain and heart using classic technology.’
Patient benefits: ‘Our patients will benefit from a new approach that is more accurate and advanced in that invasive diagnostic methods, such as biopsies, will be supplanted by an integrated in-vivo/in-vitro system that can also be used during the pre-symptomatic phases of a disease. This new approach will also allow for the administration of more targeted prophylactic therapies, and will significantly shorten hospital stays, which in turn will improve the patient’s quality of life.
Cost saving: ‘The hospital’s diagnostic laboratory and imaging services, as well as its clinical services, will be incorporated into the integrated diagnostic systems. Workflow streamlining programmes are bound to reduce costs and improve efficiency, which then means healthcare providers with the capacity to integrate diagnostic solutions and achieve cost savings will have a major competitive advantage.’

01.03.2009

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