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Lori Fontaine

Global Vice President, Clinical Affairs, Hologic

Technological innovation can help make a breast cancer patient’s journey through the health system better — from initial concerns and confident diagnosis to treatment and aftercare.


No-one in the 21st century should be diagnosed with stage 3 or stage 4 breast cancer, says Lori Fontaine, Global Vice President of Clinical Affairs for medical technology company, Hologic. “My goal is that all patients should be detected early when treatment is easier and survivability is 97% to 100%,” she says. “We know that if we can diagnose earlier, more lives can be saved. There’s much more to do to get to that point, but it is an achievable goal.”

Over the last 20 years, milestone innovations in diagnosis and treatment have made early stage breast cancer a more survivable disease. Mammography screening programs introduced in many countries in the late 1980s and early 1990s have reduced mortality by 40%. Other technological advances include 3D breast imaging; RFID tags, which, once positioned within a lesion, are able to guide surgeons to smaller tumours with greater accuracy, and markers, which provide 3D dimensional targeting for radiation therapy.

Clinical understanding across the patient pathway will make diagnosis and treatment even smarter

Fontaine believes there has never been a more exciting time to be working in the area of breast health. “I think we’re going to see more technological innovations making cancer diagnosis and treatment even smarter,” she says.

“But this isn’t just about doing one thing. It’s about educating women, putting the right opportunity for screening in front of them, detecting the disease early, giving them the right treatments and the right follow-through.”

We cannot rest until all patients are detected early, when treatment is easier and survivability for breast cancer is 97% to 100%.

It’s also about making the breast health care continuum — the journey the patient takes from initial concerns and diagnosis to treatment and aftercare — as easy and qualitative as possible. I believe Hologic uniquely positioned to help achieve this by having clinical competence within mammography, biopsy solutions, as well as surgical technology to support the targeting of challenging lesions.

An example is our intraoperative imaging solutions, which allow breast specimen images to be taken in the theatre and then sent digitally to the radiology department for verification instead of risking distortion of the specimen during transport. Or how we can facilitate the communication between the radiologist and the breast surgeon by providing breast lesion localisation with unique tag IDs.

Artificial intelligence offers chance of personalised care

Advances in artificial intelligence can also push boundaries, such as offering the possibility of personalised procedures. “We are learning so much more about the breast cancer risk for individual women,” explains Fontaine. “Let’s say physicians have access to an amazing database of medical information featuring millions of women of every ethnicity around the globe. Then they could determine, for example, the best screening technology for each individual sitting in front of them.”

To make sure this area of women’s health stays innovative, healthcare companies have to put themselves in the patients’ shoes, says Fontaine. “They have to understand what patients are going through; because if they don’t listen to them, they won’t learn. We have to think about how to do things differently and always put the patient first if we want to keep improving.

The future, the way we see it at Hologic, will be a more personalised pathway across the entire ecosystem from early detection to treatment that is simultaneously more compassionate for woman and more efficient for healthcare systems. We cannot rest until all patients are detected early, when treatment is easier and survivability for breast cancer is 97% to 100%.”

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