AWS Startups Blog

Proscia Is Taking On The Fight Against Cancer With Digital Pathology And AWS

Guest post by Nathan Buchbinder and Jennifer Levy from Proscia Inc.

Co-Founder and CEO David West presenting a skin cancer tumor sample that has been digitized, then analyzed using the Concentriq platform.

Everybody knows someone who has been diagnosed with cancer. For Proscia’s founder and CEO David West, that was his mother. Like most cancer patients, her journey started with a biopsy, which was sent to a laboratory to be analyzed to assess her condition. The tissue sample was cut, prepped, stained, and put on a glass slide, at which point it was observed under the microscope by a pathologist – a physician who is responsible for looking at tissue and making the ultimate determination of what disease is present, how bad it is, and what the correct course of treatment might be. This pathologist leveraged his expertise to recognize patterns in the tissue that ultimately shaped a diagnosis. Fortunately for West and his mother, the pathologist’s diagnosis led to successful treatment, but not every patient is so lucky.

This experience, and the similar experiences of the millions of cancer patients diagnosed worldwide each year, helped to shape Proscia’s mission. While almost all of medicine has taken an enormous shift towards digitization, the diagnosis of diseases like cancer remains—at its core—dependent nearly exclusively on the human eye. Pathologist have relied on the microscope for the past 150 years, drawing on their training to perform complex pattern recognition. These patterns are often challenging to identify and nearly always qualitative in nature, leaving ample room for subjectivity in interpretation. If this weren’t complex enough, the volume of biopsies continues to rise as the number of pathologists decreases every year, meaning that fewer pathologists are left to read more cases.

Proscia was founded to perfect cancer diagnosis with intelligent software that changes the way the world practices pathology. Our software platform, called Concentriq*, is used by thousands of researchers and pathologists to host, organize, analyze, and share millions of images of tissue biopsies, accelerating new discoveries and driving the highest quality and most efficient practice of pathology. A pipeline of AI applications that plug into Concentriq supercharge these pathology workflows to go beyond what’s possible in today’s microscope-centric pathology lab. We’re proud to have launched the first in the series of these AI applications, DermAI, today to provide an automated pre-screen of any skin biopsy.*

A key challenge in the digitization of the laboratory is just how much data is captured in the whole slide images of biopsy specimen. A single whole slide image (WSI) is, on average, 250MBs. That’s about 10x larger than a radiology (MRI, CT) image. One patient could have as many as 60 slides—or 15GB of image data—as a part of their biopsy. A single hospital lab can easily expect to see upwards of 2,000 slides—500GB of image data—every day, or 150TB of data from a single lab every year. That’s a lot of data. In fact, storing these images is one reason why pathology has been slow to go digital, leaving pathologists to often ship patient samples for their initial or secondary assessment.

To address this big data challenge and deliver Concentriq to pathologists around the world, Proscia turned to AWS. The company leverages AWS’ suite of services to provide customers with a robust, scalable, and reliable platform. From Amazon EC2 and Amazon S3 for data and analytics hosting and delivery, to AWS Snowball for the on-boarding of mega-clients, AWS has been a core part of Proscia’s product portfolio. And considering the massive size of whole slide images, AWS’ flexible storage options have been critical in managing costs for customers. As computational pathology solutions – including AI tools like Proscia’s DermAI that leverage the computer’s capacity to identify, quantify, and illuminate patterns in tissue – have become an increasingly large component of the Concentriq platform, AWS Lambda has served a key role in development and deployment of many of these breakthrough technologies.

Working together, Proscia and AWS are taking on the fight against cancer. Together, we’re balancing technological innovation with a focus on the patient to bring a fresh approach to an outdated industry, unlocking hidden data and turning it into insights that drive breakthroughs and fulfill the promise of precision care. To follow Proscia’s quest to change the practice of pathology, visit or check us out on Twitter at @ProsciaInc.

*Proscia’s products are intended for research use only.