Lung Cancer Awareness Month: Optellum’s AI platform demonstrates a vital role in efficient diagnosis to improve lung cancer survival rates

lung cancer awareness month badge

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, with approximately 1.8 million people dying from lung cancer each year. The majority of patients are diagnosed after symptoms have appeared and the disease has progressed to an advanced stage (Stage III or IV), causing the current worldwide five-year survival rate of the disease to be only 20%. In contrast to this, the survival rate for small tumors that are treated at Stage 1A is up to 90%. This significant difference highlights a critical need for diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer at the earliest possible stage – which is where Optellum steps in with the world’s first and only FDA AI-based lung cancer clinical solution for early lung cancer diagnosis.

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 lung diseases like cancer, by enabling every clinician, in every hospital, to make the right decisions and give their patients the best chance of survival.

(click here for the version with UK data instead)

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[1] 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,[2]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.[KL1] 

Optellum’s 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.

In September of this year, Optellum raised $14 million in a Series A funding round led by Mercia, with additional investors Intuitive Ventures (Sunnyvale, CA, USA) and Black Opal Ventures (New York, NY, USA).

Investment Director at Mercia, Stephen Johnson, said: “Optellum is the latest in a series of companies to channel research from the UK’s world-leading universities into commercially viable products which can make a difference to the provision of medical care. Having observed Optellum achieve great milestones over the years – we are now excited to become part of their success and apply our experience with scaling up software and deep tech companies to help accelerate Optellum’s impact on patient lives across the world.”

This Series A investment will enable the company to scale its base, operations and commercial launches in the UK and USA and accelerate its research and development. Optellum intends to expand its platform into personalized therapy decisions, integrating imaging with molecular data, robotics, and liquid biopsies – another great step in the journey to improve efficiency of diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer.


[1] 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

[2] 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.