The incidence of breast cancer is increasing in the developing world, almost doubling in just two decades and expected to continue growing. Of the estimated 1.7 million women who will be diagnosed in 2020, most will be in the developing world. Almost 70 percent of all breast cancer deaths now occur in low-income countries, mainly due to late stage detection. Early detection in order to improve outcome and survival remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control, but 90% of the developing world don’t have access to early diagnostics.
The Philadelphia-based startup UE LifeSciences is determined to make early detection more accessible. They are introducing an innovative device, called iBreastExam, giving all women a quick, painless and easy breast health check. The device, invented at Drexel University, uses sensor technology called Piezoelectric Sensor Array. The technology measure tissue compression, enabling it to accurately assess and identify tissue elasticity differences between hard and stiff breast cancer tumors, versus normal, benign breast tissue by touching of the skin surface.
The battery powered, wireless, handheld scanner perform a bilateral breast exam within 5 minutes and yield results at the point-of-care. The examination does not require any radiation, and its ease of use give any health-worker the ability to offer an objective, effective, affordable and comfortable breast examination. This means significantly increasing access to early breast cancer diagnostics for millions of women worldwide who currently lack adequate diagnosis programs and facilities, as well as improvement in treatment outcomes and survival rates.
In a clinical study published in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons in 2013, the technology was able to detect invasive tumors that physicians were unable to feel with their hands, and a study published in the Indian Journal of Gynecologic Oncology in 2016 showed that the device could significantly enhance clinical breast examination. With a sensitivity of 84% and a specificity of 94%, the study concludes that the iBreastExam can be a promising tool for early breast cancer detection. The iBreastExam device received US FDA clearance in 2015.
UE LifeSciences has previously received grants from Pennsylvania State Health Department, University City Science Center’s Proof of Concept program, Wallace H. Coulter Foundation’s Translational Research Program, and was in 2015 selected for the StartHealth Program. The startup has also raised $3 million in a Series A round led by Aarin Capital, and $1.2 million led by Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, with Unitus Seed Fund participating in both rounds. UE LifeSciences was among the top startups at the IBM Smartcamp Challenge for Healthtech 2016, recognized as Top Innovators at the Accenture HealthTech Innovation Challenge, and was named the grand prize winner of 2016 HITLAB World Cup, an international digital health challenge.