TORONTO – The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in diagnoses of late-stage cancer, with restrictions preventing or discouraging many people from getting tested early. But a new screening technology developed by a Canadian company could make it easier to detect cancer earlier.
StageZero Life Sciences is a Richmond Hill, Ont.-based health care company that has developed a way to simultaneously screen for different types of cancer using the same blood sample. Some of the cancers that StageZero can detect include breast, cervical, endometrial, prostate, liver, stomach, bladder, and colorectal.
“We’re adding a whole slew of additional series. And we’ll continue to add them as we continue to build,” James Howard-Trip, chairman and CEO of StageZero, told Granthshala News Channel on Saturday.
The test uses mRNA technology to analyze gene signatures in a patient’s blood sample and cross-reference them with the genetic profiles of individuals with cancer.
Howard-Trip said, “We’ll take a sample of your blood and then we’ll measure it to see if it matches. Clearly, if it does, we’d pretty much say that you have (cancer).” ,
If mRNA sounds familiar, that’s because it’s the same technology used to develop the COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer and Moderna.
Howard-Trip says blood tests can detect cancer at any stage with 98 to 99 percent accuracy, even in the very early stages. If the blood test comes back positive for cancer, the patient will be advised to see a pathologist for a conventional laboratory test to confirm the diagnosis.
“We will always tell you that we are not the definitive test. The definitive test is always a piece of tissue in front of the pathologist,” Howard-Trip said.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, an estimated 229,200 new cancer cases and 84,600 cancer deaths are expected in 2021.
But being able to detect cancer in its early stages can greatly increase your chances of survival. For example, patients with colorectal cancer found in stage one or two have a five-year survival rate of about 90 percent, Howard-Trip says.
“If you find it late, in stages three and four, you have a 10 to 14 percent chance of survival in five years’ time. More than two-thirds of the time, colorectal cancer is found late,” he says. said .
Howard-Trip says the pandemic has resulted in a “tsunami” of late-stage cancer diagnoses.
“COVID has had a huge impact on healthcare, because unless you’re really sick, you don’t go to see your doctor because of all the difficulties with it. And at that point, you’re symptomatic overall. If you are symptomatic, you are largely in the late stage,” he explained.
So far, StageZero’s blood tests have been provided Clinics in the Greater Toronto Area and parts of the United States. Howard-Trip says that anyone concerned about an increased risk of cancer due to age, inheritance, family history or any other factors can be screened.
“It’s really available to anyone who may have anxiety,” he said.