Picomole’s Cancer Detection Test Could Save Thousands of Lives
Lung cancer is one of the deadliest cancers prevalent in Canada today. The statistics for the disease leap off the page: 1.6 million people worldwide will die of lung cancer this year, with over 20,000 of those deaths occurring in Canada. That number accounts for nearly a quarter of the total deaths from cancer that will occur in this country over the course of the year.
If there’s a bright spot in the dismal data, it’s that survival rates over a five-year period leap nearly 40% when the lung cancer is detected early. However, this is much more easily said than done: most early detection methods currently in use involve invasive surgeries or bulky, expensive equipment like CT scanners.
That’s why we’re so excited about the work being done by Moncton-based medical technology company Picomole. Picomole’s patented gas analysis technology, based on Laser Infrared Sample Analysis (LISA), has enabled the company to take steps toward developing an innovative breath test capable of detecting lung cancer before it can metastasize to the lymph nodes and the rest of the body.
Picomole’s breath test begins with a sample device about the size of a microwave that a patient can blow into in any doctor’s office, clinic or pharmacy. That breath sample is then sent to the Picomole lab in Moncton, where the company’s analyzer machine measures the amount of mid-infrared light that has been absorbed by organic compounds in the breath itself. By using machine learning techniques to compare each individual sample with a sample taken from a healthy individual, the company can quickly determine if the patient is exhibiting early signs of pulmonary disease.
Simply put, this technology is a game-changer. In addition to being more accurate than current early detection methods, Picomole researchers believe their process will only cost about a third of the $81,000 USD per life year saved that the current CT method comes in at. That’s why we’ve decided to partner with Picomole to support their efforts to refine their data collection methods, validate and improve their existing machine learning algorithms, and reduce patient burden and analysis time within the process. We’ll be providing just over $77,000 in support of these clinical research goals.
Once clinical trials are finished, and full regulatory trials are approved by Health Canada and the United States Food and Drug Administration, the sky is the limit for this truly innovative company. Next steps will involve using their breath test technology to diagnose and track other diseases, with breast cancer being the next affliction on the docket.
Picomole’s leadership team expects promising sales when its products arrive in-market, but even more importantly, as New Brunswick and all of North America ages, Picomole is in a tremendous position to help doctors and nurses identify, treat and eliminate cancers across our population. We’re proud to assist in any way we can, and we can’t wait to see where these true Atlantic Canadian innovators go from here.