An Arkansas-based start-up, selected to pitch at SXSW, aims to diagnose breast cancer through a non-invasive procedure: the collection of tears.

SXSW: Ascendant Dx is making cancer-detection from tears happen

According to the American Cancer Society, women with stage 2 breast cancer have a five-year survival rate of 93% while those with stage 4 breast cancer have a five-year survival rate of only 22%. These figures prove how important early diagnosis is. Unfortunately, 60% of US (45-70 years old) woman don't get screened. Besides, the methods to detect cancer usually require expensive equipments. This is why startups are trying to disrupt this market and save thousands of lives.

We have already written about young companies developing their own technologies to detect cancer from a blood sample. Others chose to use urine-based screening test to detect the disease. A start-up from Springdale (Arkansas), Ascendant Dx, offers an inexpensive solution as well, which is - according to them - more accurate and faster. “Our solution detects protein biomarkers in tears, because tears are (made of) concentrated blood” Omid Moghadam, CEO and founder of Ascendant DX explained during his pitch at the South by Southwest 2017 event.

The startup uses a very simple procedure: a piece of filter paper is placed between the superior and inferior eyelashes of the patient, who closes his/her eyes et voilà! The tears flow and are absorbed by the paper. Half an hour later, the team can analyse the first results with nearly 90% accuracy. Ascendant Dx has just conducted a study in New-Zealand with 400 people and has concluded multiple clinical partnerships. The next step is getting a 1,000 patients clinical-trial and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance. Omid Moghadam expects the product to be ready to be launched in the market in 18 months.

The American Cancer Society predicts that about 250,000 breast cancers are going to be diagnosed in 2017. Let’s hope that disruptive technologies such as Ascendant Dx’s solution will enable early detection and thus a high survival rate.

By Sophia Qadiri
Managing Editor & Journalist