Inexpensive Home Cancer Tests May Soon Be A Reality

Cancer TestOne thing that remains constant in the medical industry is that new technology is always helping people understand and take care of their bodies better. The things people can do at home today, like find out whether or not they are pregnant using a home pregnancy test, would have required a doctor’s visit in the past. However, because of the rapid developments in medical technology, things that may have seemed innovative and groundbreaking at one time are now frequently taken for granted.

There are now a whole new set of amazing home medical technologies that are close to making their way into the marketplace, and it remains to be seen whether or not these new technologies will one day become as much a part of our lives as the home pregnancy test.

One example is the home cancer testing system that was recently developed by a team at MIT. In fact, the new tests use technology that is very similar to the technology that has been used in home pregnancy tests for years. Users even activate the two tests in the same manner: by urinating on a test strip.

Mixture of Technologies

According to technology expert, Jason Hope, the combination of new and old technologies is one of the things that make the MIT home cancer test unique.

“Many people have this misconception that technological developments happen in revolutions, where something new just comes through and completely wipes out the old way of doing things,” said Mr. Hope. “However, this new cancer test just goes to show that it frequently happens the other way: some very smart people find a way of taking the technology we already have and adapting it to do new things we never would have dreamed it could do. It may not be as glamorous as the idea of technological revolution, but the results are just as effective.”

The MIT team, lead by Sangeeta Bhatia, published their research on the home cancer test in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. According to their report, the paper test strips have shown the ability to accurately detect colon tumors in mice, demonstrating the potential to one day be used for similar tests in human beings. While the tests provide an exciting glimpse at what might be possible with these kinds of tests, the team is still continuing its research in order to create a more complete and useful test. According to Bhatia, the team will now focus its efforts on creating a test that can detect prostate and breast cancers, and hopes to one day create a test that is capable of detecting any form of cancer.

Easy and Inexpensive

According to Mr. Hope, the test could have life-changing potential, both because of the fact that it can be used at home, and because it easy to use and inexpensive.

“From a medical standpoint, early detection is often the key to helping people live fuller, longer lives with cancer. Unfortunately, there are still many people in this world who are unwilling or unable to go see a doctor, even in circumstances when they have reason to believe that something might be seriously wrong with them. This type of home testing system is custom-made with those types of people in mind. It will open up cancer testing to a whole new group of people who would have never had access to it before, and that will make us healthier on a global scale.”

Much like a home pregnancy tests, the new strips use a color change to indicate the presence of a tumor: antibodies on the test strip react to the presence of matrix metalloproteinase in urine to turn the strip red. The test could potentially give users the ability to perform a reliable cancer test no matter where they are.

What’s Next?

The next step in the process of developing the home cancer test is performing the needed clinical trials. Bhatia and her team have received a grant from MIT to help them found a startup that will perform these tests, and then try to bring the technology to market. It’s unclear if these inexpensive home cancer tests will become an everyday part of our lives soon, but past experience would suggest that they may one day be as prevalent as the home pregnancy tests they are based on.

About the author: Melissa Williams is a philanthropy and business writer. As a native Texan, she began her career as a fundraiser for a non-profit organization. Lured by the mountains and trail running, she relocated to Scottsdale, Arizona and works as a consultant for non-profit organizations. She enjoys writing about philanthropy and entrepreneurs.