How Optellum is working to change the survival rates for lung cancer with an innovative AI platform

Optellum was founded with the vision of providing clinical decision support software that could help lung disease patients be diagnosed and treated with curative intent at the earliest possible stage. The company’s goal is to redefine early intervention of diseases like lung cancer, by enabling every clinician, in every hospital, to make the right decisions and give their patients the best chance to fight back.

World Lung Cancer Day graphic

Lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer. The current five-year survival rate is an abysmal 20%, primarily due to the majority of patients being diagnosed after symptoms have appeared and the disease has progressed to an advanced stage (Stage III or IV).[1] By comparison, the survival rate for small tumors treated at Stage IA is up to 90%.[2]

One of greatest opportunities to diagnose more small pre-symptomatic lung cancers earlier is presented by the two million patients in the United States every year[3] who have a lung nodule identified incidentally during chest CT scans ordered for other reasons, such as emergency room or cardiac scans. Current guidelines mandate follow-up over one to two years to determine whether a nodule is cancerous. However, over 60% of these patients do not receive guideline-recommended follow-up,[4]severely limiting opportunities for early intervention and treatment. Patients who do receive recommended follow-up often require multiple imaging scans and biopsies, and sometimes unnecessary invasive procedures including surgical biopsies and lung resections, before arriving at a definite diagnosis.

Optellum Virtual Nodule Clinic is designed to solve this problem. The AI-based platform identifies and tracks patients with Natural Language Processing (NLP) allowing pulmonologists and nurse navigators to manage their care. In addition, it incorporates Lung Cancer Prediction, which stratifies patients and assists diagnosis, supporting clinical decision making. Optellum’s Lung Cancer prediction score is powered by the world’s first and only FDA-cleared imaging AI/”Radiomics”-based digital biomarker for lung cancer. The score is computed from full patterns of 3D pixels in standard images captured by Computed Tomography (CT) scanners, which are already available and the standard of care in every modern hospital.

The software is cleared for use in almost 30 countries, including the United States (FDA clearance), the European Union (CE-MD R regulations) and the United Kingdom (UKCA). It has been implemented for patient use in several top US hospitals, including Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and Atrium Health Wake Forest where it is used by Dr Christina Bellinger, Director of the Interventional Pulmonary Program.

“The artificial intelligence-based lung cancer prediction tool, in my early practice, has supported me and helped make me more confident in my decisions for lung nodule management.”

Dr. Christina Bellinger, Director of the Interventional Pulmonary Program, Wake Forest Baptist Health, September 2021

Optellum has strategic collaboration agreements with Johnson & Johnson’s Lung Cancer Initiative and GE Healthcare.

GE Healthcare plans to collaborate with Optellum’s sales team on the distribution of the Virtual Nodule Clinic and work with Optellum to integrate the platform with AI solutions powered by GE Healthcare’s Edison platform. In addition the companies intend to bring results from Optellum’s Lung Cancer Prediction AI into the existing workflow of various GE Healthcare technological pathways, including CT and PACS.

“The precise diagnosis of lung cancer can greatly improve patient prognosis. The integration of imaging and medical device data from the Edison Platform with AI-enabled solutions like the one offered by the Optellum Virtual Nodule Clinic has the potential to streamline clinician workflows and advance our goal of making precision healthcare, taking the right action at the right time for every patient, at scale, as widely accessible as possible.”

Ben Newton, General Manager, Oncology Solutions, at GE Healthcare, November 2021

In the United Kingdom, the platform is currently being piloted at ten NHS hospitals as part of DOLCE – a landmark research project led by Professor David Baldwin, who is Honorary Professor of Medicine at the University of Nottingham, and Consultant Physician at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust. The project is part of the NHS AI Lab’s £140 million AI in Health and Care Award to accelerate the testing and evaluation of AI in the NHS so patients can benefit from faster and more personalised diagnosis and greater efficiency in screening services.

“The impact of the pandemic on lung cancer has been devastating – we have seen fewer diagnoses and more late-stage disease. It is imperative that we recover and diagnose more people at an early stage. Very early stage lung cancer can be difficult to diagnose because it shows up on scans as small pulmonary nodules. These can be tricky to classify so we need better ways to confirm whether a nodule is lung cancer or harmless and quickly as possible. Every day that a diagnosis is delayed diminishes a patient’s chances of survival. That is why my NHS colleagues – leading radiologists and pulmonologists – and I have teamed up with Optellum to develop and validate this imaging AI-based software.

This will help identify and urgently prioritise referrals for patients with a genuine high-risk of cancer, speeding up time to the start of treatment, reducing unnecessary procedures on patients with benign lesions and saving NHS time and resources for those who ideally need them.”

Professor David Baldwin, Chair of the Clinical Expert Group for Lung Cancer, NHS England and co-author of the current clinical guidelines for lung cancer in the UK and Professor of Medicine and Consultant Physician at Nottingham University Hospitals, April 2021

Optellum’s platform was also featured as a case study in Health Education England’s AI Roadmap Report[5] which reviewed the preparedness of the NHS for the implementation of new AI technologies and the impact these technologies will have on workforce, the patient pathway and wider system performance.

This innovative AI platform aims to become the standard of patient care and change the survival rates for lung cancer and the company continues to achieve milestones on that journey.

[1] Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program ( SEER*Stat Database: SEER 18 2010–2016, All Races, Both Sexes. Available at

[2] AJCC Lung Cancer Staging manual (7th edition)

[3] Optellum projections based on Gould MK, Tang T, Liu IL, Lee J, Zheng C, Danforth KN, Kosco AE, Di Fiore JL, Suh DE. Recent Trends in the Identification of Incidental Pulmonary Nodules. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2015 Nov 15;192(10):1208-14

[4] Pyenson BS, Bazell CM, Bellanich MJ, Caplen MA, Zulueta JJ. No Apparent Workup for most new Indeterminate Pulmonary Nodules in US Commercially-Insured Patients. JHEOR. 2019;6(3):118-129.