JAMA: Computer-aided detection does not help spot breast cancer

Researchers looked at mammograms from 323,973 patients who underwent digital screening with or without CAD and found that the cancer detection rate did not change depending on whether the technology was used.  Scientists published their findings in a recent issue of JAMA Internal Medicine (Journal of the American Medical Association).

CAD, which was approved by the FDA in 1998, is used in about 90% of mammograms performed each year, generating $400 million in healthcare costs, Constance Lehman, lead researcher and co-director of the Avon Foundation Comprehensive Breast Evaluation Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told Bloomberg.  And the latest findings prove that the practice should end, she added.  “There is absolutely no question from our research that computer-aided detection offers no benefit to catching cancers that otherwise would have been missed or improving performance,” Lehman said, as quoted by Bloomberg.  “We should certainly stop charging for it. We want to use our healthcare dollars on technology that will improve the health of our patients.”

The findings point to a bigger problem in the healthcare system, Joshua Fenton, a family doctor at the University of California at Davis, told Bloomberg, as new test and diagnostic techniques make it to market without proven benefits.  “If we could curtail use of many similarly ineffective tests and interventions, we could significantly reduce U.S. health-care expenditures while augmenting resources for effective care or well-designed studies of promising innovations,” Fenton said, as quoted by Bloomberg.

However, the news is already having an impact on med tech companies producing the technology, including Hologic and medical imaging player Icad.  Bedford, MA-based Hologic, which reaps 37% of its sales from breast health products, saw its shares tumble 5.6% to $37.76 after the findings were released–the company’s biggest one-day decline since November 2013, Bloomberg reports.  Nashua, NH-based Icad fell 10% to $3.37.

Still, Icad is standing by its technology, saying a “significant body of clinical literature” proves that technology improves radiologists’ performance and cancer detection, CEO Ken Ferry told the news outlet in an email.  And the devices are FDA-approved, which requires the company to prove their safety and benefit, he added.

REFERENCE:  Fierce Medical Devices; 29 SEP 2015; Emily Wasserman

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