Pakistani breast cancer detection startup hopes to get FDA approval by next year

Shahrukh Babar, Xylexa’s chief executive officer speaks about the company's newly-developed breast cancer detection software at his office in Islamabad. (AN photo)
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Updated 20 October 2020
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Pakistani breast cancer detection startup hopes to get FDA approval by next year

  • Xylexa Inc. has developed software that produces mammogram results within seconds, pushing diagnosis accuracy up to 90 percent
  • Pakistan has the highest rate of breast cancer in Asia with approximately 90,000 new cases diagnosed every year

ISLAMABAD: The CEO of a Pakistani startup that uses artificial intelligence and image processing to detect breast cancer said this week he was hopeful his software would break onto the global stage next year after getting approval from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Xylexa Inc., a computer-aided diagnostics platform, has developed software that processes mammograms within seconds and produces results, pushing diagnosis accuracy up to 90 percent while also cutting costs and time.




Commuters make their way past a building lit with pink light on the occasion of the breast cancer awareness month in Karachi on Oct. 10, 2020. (AFP/File)

Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, and Pakistan has the highest rate of the disease in Asia, with approximately 90,000 new cases diagnosed every year. Of those, 40,000 patients do not survive, according to data from the Journal of the Pakistan Medical Association, which says approximately one out of every nine Pakistani women are likely to suffer from breast cancer. Around 77 percent cases of invasive breast cancer occur in women above 50 years, though if diagnosed early, the survival rate is close to 90 percent.
“Breast cancer’s early diagnosis is the biggest challenge [and] when a radiologist reads a mammogram with a naked eye, the [chances of] misdiagnosis are over 30 percent,” Shahrukh Babar, Xylexa’s chief executive officer, told Arab News on Monday.
“We have developed an artificial intelligence-based decision support system which reads mammograms, processes them through innovative algorithms and exactly pinpoints where the anomaly is present and what type of anomaly it is, either it is benign or belligerent,” Babar said. “There is no subscription fee for our service as hospitals and individuals can pay per study. It is a cloud based application which can be accessed easily anywhere and anytime. Even patients will be able to upload their mammograms to get the diagnosis.”
The company began to develop the software in early 2017, and it is now being used on a trial basis in hospitals in The Netherlands and Germany. Xylexa hopes to release its application performance results by November and is developing partnerships with hospitals in Dubai, Europe and the US before it launches the software commercially next year after getting FDA certification, the CEO said.
“We are launching it in Pakistan by first quarter of next year, and will be launching it globally in 2021,” Babar said, adding that his company was closely working with an advisory board of oncologists and radiologists from North America and Canada to fine-tune the product.
Healthcare specialists say death by breast cancer can be prevented in one third of women if routine mammography was performed in women over 50 years of age.
“It is quite alarming that breast cancer is becoming common in younger age groups,” said Dr. Erum Khan, a surgeon and healthcare specialist at Polyclinic hospital in Islamabad. “The the only way to tackle it effectively is early and accurate detection.”


Pakistan concludes post-Hajj operations for over 160,000 pilgrims

Updated 31 sec ago
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Pakistan concludes post-Hajj operations for over 160,000 pilgrims

  • Pakistan’s religion ministry says it facilitated pilgrims in food, transportation and accommodation
  • Ministry says it introduced new measures this Hajj such as Pak Hajj app and free SIM cards for pilgrims

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan successfully concluded its post-Hajj operations 2024 on Sunday, the religion ministry said, during which over 160,000 pilgrims from the country performed the annual Islamic pilgrimage this year. 

Out of Pakistan’s total quota of 179,210 pilgrims, around 160,000 from the country performed Hajj this year through both the government scheme and private tour operators. The annual Islamic pilgrimage was held from June 14-19 during which millions of pilgrims from all parts of the world arrived in Saudi Arabia. 

In a statement on Sunday, Dr. Mirza Ali Mehsood, senior joint secretary of the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) congratulated Pakistani pilgrims on their safe return and completion of Hajj rituals. He thanked the MoRA staff, Hajj Moavineen or assistants, and the Pakistani Hajj Medical Mission for their relentless efforts in facilitating pilgrims during the post-Hajj phase. 

 “Moavineen and ministry staff, comprising officials and officers of grade 7-21, are deployed to serve these guests of Allah in the Holy lands of Makkah and Madinah,” Dr. Mehsood said. “They are required to take care of guests of Allah. We should shun our arrogance, status, and authority while serving the Guests of Allah.”

The MoRA official said the duty to serve pilgrims must be taken as a “rank-less” assignment, adding that one does not know when they would ever be blessed with such an opportunity again hence they should make the most of it. 

Zia Ur Rehman, the director of Hajj in Madinah, praised the operation’s success, saying that MoRA facilitated Pakistani pilgrims in food, accommodation and transportation. 

“He noted that due to demolition and new construction, it was very difficult to get accommodations in Markazia Madinah, but with our efforts, we arranged all accommodations for Pakistani pilgrims in Markazia, a significant achievement,” MoRA said. Rehman shared that 66,000 Pakistani pilgrims had visited the Riaz ul Jannah, the area between the pulpit and the grave of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Madinah. 

MoRA said it had introduced several new initiatives this Hajj, which included the launch of the Pak Hajj app, free SIM cards for pilgrims, and the appointment of Hajj Moavineen who qualified after passing the National Testing Service (NTS) exam. He said these initiatives greatly assisted Pakistani pilgrims throughout their holy journey.

“Jamil-ur-Rehman, Assistant Director, praised the Pak Hajj app as a successful and unique initiative that kept pilgrims in constant contact with the ministry,” the statement said. “The app provided access to complaints, training materials, accommodation details, flight schedules, and other services, greatly aiding pilgrims throughout their journey.”

Mushtaque Asghar, another MoRA official, said 36,900 complaints were received through the Pak Hajj app out of which 34,979 were successfully resolved. 
 


Turkmenistan foreign minister arrives in Islamabad today amid Pakistan trade push

Updated 44 min 6 sec ago
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Turkmenistan foreign minister arrives in Islamabad today amid Pakistan trade push

  • There has been a flurry of visits, investment talks and economic activity between Pakistan and Central Asian states recently
  • Pakistan hopes to enhance its role as pivotal trade and transit hub connecting landlocked Central Asia to the rest of the world

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister of Turkmenistan Rasit Meredow will arrive in Pakistan on a three-day visit today, Monday, Pakistani state media reported, amid Islamabad’s efforts to boost trade with Central Asian states.

Pakistan hopes to leverage its strategic geopolitical position and enhance its role as a pivotal trade and transit hub connecting the landlocked Central Asian republics with the rest of the world.

In recent months, there has been a flurry of visits, investment talks and economic activity between Pakistan and Central Asian states, including meetings with leaders from Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.

FM Meredow will hold extensive talks with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar and call on Pakistani leadership during the visit, the state-run Radio Pakistan broadcaster reported on Sunday.

“Talks between the two sides will cover all aspects of bilateral relations,” the report read. “They will also exchange views on regional and global developments.”

Located in a landlocked but resource-rich region, Central Asian countries need better access to regional markets including Pakistan, China, India, and the countries of West Asia.

Islamabad is seeking to bolster trade and investment relations with allies to stabilize its fragile $350 billion economy as it faces an acute balance of payment crisis amid soaring inflation and surging external debt.

The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, under which Beijing has pledged around $65 billion in energy, infrastructure and other projects in Pakistan, also presents a strategic opportunity for Central Asian states to transport their goods more easily to regional and global markets.


Actor Noor Xarmina crowned ‘Miss Universe Pakistan 2024’

Updated 21 July 2024
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Actor Noor Xarmina crowned ‘Miss Universe Pakistan 2024’

  • The 29-year-old venture capitalist-turned-actor hails from Islamabad and recently moved back to Pakistan from abroad
  • Xarmina says she wants to represent Pakistan on international forums, bring about a change for women

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani actor Noor Xarmina has been declared ‘Miss Universe Pakistan 2024,’ after which she is poised to represent Pakistan at the 73rd Miss Universe 2024 pageant in November this year.
The announcement of Xarmina’s successful bid was made in a video published on the official YouTube channel of Miss Universe on Saturday.
The 29-year-old venture capitalist-turned-actor, who has studied biology and business, hails from Islamabad and recently moved to Pakistan.
In the video shared on Miss Universe YouTube channel, she said she wanted to bring about a “positive change” in her home country.
“I want to be an agent for positive change in two respects. The first is for our country. Pakistan is scarcely represented internationally across so many industries and I want to enhance our representation on an international stage,” Xarmina said.
“In the second respect, I want to have change for women in our country. Pakistan needs strong female leaders that can mobilize its women and empower them to create positive change in society.”
Asked if Pakistan would support Xarmina’s bid at international beauty pageants, Pakistani Information Minister Ataullah Tarar said if Xarmina has played a role in projecting Pakistan’s soft image, then a discussion can be held on this.
“I do not know about that woman, what background she has and what professional achievements she has before this, they can be looked into. If she has played her role for Pakistan’s image, Pakistan’s soft image, and Pakistan’s development, then discussion can be held on this,” he told reporters in Islamabad on Sunday.
Tarar noted that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif recently invited Naila Kiyani, a UAE-based Pakistani mountaineer, and appreciated her.
“So, we definitely believe that whatever achievement one has, it should be recognized,” he added.
Last year, Erica Rabin became the first Pakistani woman to be crowned Miss Universe Pakistan. Prior to that, no woman from Muslim-majority Pakistan ever participated in the Miss Universe pageant.
Miss Universe Pakistan is a national beauty pageant franchise organized by the Yugen Group of Dubai to select a representative from Pakistan for the Miss Universe pageant.


Minister denies ex-PM Khan claims, says he lives in ‘presidential suite’ inside Pakistani jail

Updated 21 July 2024
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Minister denies ex-PM Khan claims, says he lives in ‘presidential suite’ inside Pakistani jail

  • In an interview with a UK publication, Khan claimed he was ‘confined in a 7ft by 8ft death cell, typically reserved for terrorists’ and being denied basic rights
  • Information Minister Ataullah Tarar says Khan has an exercise bicycle, a dedicated kitchen and holds three meetings weekly with his family, friends and aides

ISLAMABAD: Information Minister Ataullah Tarar on Sunday denied jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s claims that he was being denied basic prisoner rights in Pakistan, saying that the ex-premier’s “presidential suite” inside Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail was much better than several middle-class homes in the South Asian country.
Khan, 71, has been imprisoned at Adiala Jail since August last year. All four jail sentences he received ahead of a February national election in Pakistan have been overturned or suspended in recent weeks.
He remains in jail after authorities this month issued fresh arrest warrants for him in three cases linked to violence against the military and other state installations that erupted following his brief arrest in May 2023, according to his party.
In an interview with UK publication The Sunday Times this week, Khan claimed he was “confined in a 7ft by 8ft death cell, typically reserved for terrorists” and being denied “basic prisoner and human rights such as visitation.”
Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad, Tarar denied the claims and described Khan’s prison cell as the “presidential suite” of a five-star hotel, which offered a number of “amenities.”
“This convicted person (Khan) who is the ex-chairman of PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party), he lives in a presidential suite. He has an exercise bicycle at his disposal,” the information minister said.
“He has a walking gallery at his disposal, he has a kitchen at his disposal and he gives a proper, lavish menu of what he wants to eat in the entire day. He holds three meetings weekly with his lawyers, with his friends, family, with his political leaders.”
Tarar said these were not the things normally found inside prisons and that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz-led government in Pakistan had never victimized its political opponents.
He criticized Khan for mistreatment of his political opponents during his tenure as the prime minister from 2018 till 2022.
“Mr Khan himself incarcerated people and put them in death cells, including women. And he was responsible and he used to openly state that ‘I will not let any medicine get through to them in the prison. I will not let them have home food, I will not let them meet people’,” the minister recounted.
“He used to state it very openly and now, he is having a lavish lifestyle inside the jail. Your presidential suite inside Adiala jail is better than several middle-class homes.”
Khan’s convictions had ruled the 71-year-old out of the Feb. 8 general election as convicted felons cannot run for public office under Pakistani law. Arguably Pakistan’s most popular politician, Khan says all cases against him are motivated to keep him out of politics.
An anti-terrorism court this month canceled his bail in one of the May 9, 2023 cases registered against him and thousands of his supporters. His PTI party called it a “gimmick” aimed at prolonging his imprisonment.


Family, activists call for recovery of Hindu girl who went missing in Pakistan’s Sindh in 2021

Updated 21 July 2024
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Family, activists call for recovery of Hindu girl who went missing in Pakistan’s Sindh in 2021

  • Seven-year-old Priya Kumari went missing on August 19, 2021 in Sukkur city of Pakistan’s Sindh province
  • In the past, the province has reported cases of forced conversions of Hindu girls and marriages with abductors

KARACHI: The family of Priya Kumari, a Hindu girl who went missing in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province in 2021, and rights activists have called on provincial authorities to ensure her release and sought a clear deadline in this regard.
Seven-year-old Kumari went missing in Sindh’s Sukkur on August 19, 2021. While her family suspects no one, the southern Pakistani province has previously reported cases of forced conversions and marriage of Hindu girls, with those from poor families and low castes largely targeted.
The Minority Rights March, Aurat March, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, Women Democratic Front, Priya Kumari Bazyabi Committee and other civil society organizations this week held a protest in Sindh’s provincial capital of Karachi to demand her release.
On Saturday, Luke Victor, a human rights defender, led a delegation, comprising Kumari’s parents, Raj Kumar and Reena Kumari, and other activists, to meet with Sindh Home Minister Zia-ul-Hassan Lanjar. They said the minister claimed Kumari was alive but offered no solid assurance for her release.
“While we welcome the details and progress shared by the JIT (joint investigation team) after three years [of Kumari’s abduction], we expect the JIT and the Sindh Home Minister to be able to provide more than just a vague promise of ‘soon’ and to commit to a specific date by which they expect to recover Priya safely,” the protest organizers said in a statement on Saturday.
“Open-ended discussions and vague commitments have occurred too many times without any results and have only eroded the trust once placed in the Sindh Police, which can only be restored with the safe recovery of Priya Kumari without further delay.”
During the meeting on Saturday, Kumari’s parents submitted a written application to the Sindh home minister for their daughter’s recovery and a transparent investigation into her abduction.
“There are hopes. The child is alive, and we have evidence,” the minister is heard saying in a video of the meeting.
“I cannot commit regarding the timeframe. She could be found tomorrow or within a week. We are trying to recover her soon,” he says, when asked for an assurance.
Luke, who led the delegation to the meeting, said on Sunday the “vague” statement suggested the authorities were either “lying or unwilling to act.”
“They are either lying about having traced Priya Kumari or they are unable to take action against the culprit, who could be influential,” he said.