Prostate cancer affects 1 in 9 men and is one of the most common cancers in the United States. Due to the close anatomical association between the prostate and nearby organs, well-known complications of prostate cancer treatment are urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. Santa Monica-based Avenda Health hopes to use artificial intelligence to decrease rates of those complications and improve treatment outcomes.
Avenda Health was founded in June 2017 as the culmination of nearly a decade of research at University of California, Los Angeles. The core team consists of three co-founders: Chief Executive Officer Shyam Natarajan, Chief Operating Officer Brittany Berry-Pusey, Ph.D., and Chief Medical Officer Leonard S. Marks, M.D. Together, the three have experience in prostate cancer care, prostate imaging and biopsy, artificial intelligence, and medical devices.
Unlike traditional prostate cancer treatment, which involves removing or irradiating the entire prostate gland, Avenda uses artificial intelligence to guide laser treatment and target just the tumor itself. “Using large datasets of imaging and pathology, Avenda uses AI to calculate precisely where treatment should be applied, sparing healthy tissue so men can maintain urinary and sexual function,” according to Natarajan. “Diagnosis and treatment can be done in-office by a urologist, rather than multiple specialists and procedures, saving time and costs and offering potentially quick recovery.”
The results are promising so far. According to Natarajan, Avenda Health’s technology has been validated by a recent proof-of-concept Phase I study, in which no patients reported urinary or sexual dysfunction over a one-year follow-up period. The company hopes to raise a Series A round for initial commercialization in 2019, followed by a multi-center clinical trial expected to begin in 2020, funded in part by a $3.1 million grant from the NIH.
“We are excited about the future of prostate cancer treatment,” says Berry-Pusey. “Compared to today’s standard of care for prostate cancer, our system is designed to dramatically reduce complications, shorten procedure and recovery time, and move treatment out of an expensive operating room into an office-based setting.”