Cancer is among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality worldwide, and the number of cases is expected to rise by about 70% over the next 2 decades. Every year, more than 8 million people die of some kind of cancer. Cancers diagnosed at an early stage is more likely to be treated successfully and increase chance of survival. In fact, over a third of all cancer deaths can be averted by screening and early detection. However, there is no accurate, minimally-invasive, cost-effective method to detect the majority of cancers at an early stage.
The Boston-based startup ConquerX is developing an innovative medical device that can detect up to 18 types of cancer. The device, called MetaChip, is an optimized, proprietary electrochemical biosensor that use a blood sample to detect microRNAs. A blood sample is simply taken from the patient, placed on the MetaChip, which is put on a portable sensor-reader to get results within 15 minutes.
The minimally invasive test is the first pan-cancer blood test that is able to detect tumor cells before any tumor appears on imaging. It does not require any amplification or sequencing, allowing the technology to be performed for at least 3x lower cost than competing technologies. In proof of concept tests in 10 breast cancer patients, the cutting-edge technology presented a sensitivity of 83%, specificity of 99% and accuracy of 90%.
Currently available tests are time-consuming, expensive and require trained technicians to perform, and still cannot detect types like pancreatic and ovarian cancer. ConquerX is developing an accurate, portable and cost-effective test that enable early detection of multiple cancers at point-of-care. Their MetaChip technology is a game-changing approach to cancer diagnostics and screening, which could help diagnose 18 different types of cancers at an early stage, potentially saving millions of lives worldwide. And since it does not involve extensive sample preparation by lab specialists or expensive equipment, it could potentially increase access to proper cancer diagnostics in low-resource and rural settings.
The startup was founded by Deborah Zanforlin, Jorge Sánchez López, Jakub Chudik and To Nhu Huynh, a diverse team with a belief in using innovative technology to benefit humanity. The partnership grew out of the MITx Global Entrepreneurship Bootcamp 2015, where they won the People’s Choice Startup Award and placed second in the final pitch competition. They have later been a semifinalist of the MIT Sloan Healthcare Innovations Prize, and a finalist of MassChallenge Boston. ConquerX is currently looking for partnerships and research collaborations to get validation data on lung cancer blood samples.