Innovative Tech Is Set to Improve Cancer Detection

Over the last couple of years, the Internet of things has evolved from an intriguing idea into a mainstream concept that promises to revolutionize a wide array of industries. But nowhere does connected technology offer more promise than in health care.

Cyrcadia Health, a Reno, Nev., firm has introduced the ITBra, a screening device that aids in the detection of breast cancer, which kills about half a million people worldwide each year. “Early diagnosis has always been a critical issue,” says Rob Royea, CEO and chairman of Cyrcadia Health. “The challenge has been to screen patients before it’s too late.”

The ITBra aims to replace painful mammograms and ultrasounds, which can provide inconclusive results, including false positives. The device has so far demonstrated an accuracy rate of about 87 percent.

The device, a patch that a woman wears inside a normal bra for a few hours each month, uses multiple sensors on each breast—including a thermal sensor that measures circadian temperature changes—to provide visualizations of tissue and spot tumors before they are normally detectable. The device connects to a smartphone and transmits the potentially life-saving information to an app. Algorithms measure high heat levels that typically indicate abnormal cell activity.

The device is currently undergoing clinical trials in the United States. About 173 patients are testing the ITBra, and Cyrcadia Health is hoping to have final FDA approval by mid-2016. The company is also testing the monitoring device in India and Singapore.

“This addresses a very real problem,” Royea says. Only about 10 percent to 30 percent of the population typically takes advantage of mammograms—even when the insurance company or government provides them at no out-of-pocket cost.

“The problem is that by the time you have a visual diagnosis, you have a tumor protruding from a patient’s tissue and the cancer is at a far more advanced state,” he adds. “Because a lot of people view breast cancer as a death sentence, they avoid checkups.”

At present, the ITBra uses USB to transfer data to the smartphone. However, Royea says that the company is working with Flextronics—which provides the sensors and electronics for the device—to migrate to Bluetooth and WiFi. An added benefit, he notes, is that Bluetooth would deliver convenient charging capabilities, and the wireless systems could alert a physician in real time if an anomaly appears.

“Our servers are able to receive the data, process it and send it on to a doctor in about one minute,” Royea says. “It’s an extremely fast and efficient system.” He hopes the device will be available over the counter and is working with bra manufacturers to weave the sensors into regular bras.

Cyrcadia Health also hopes to expand the technology into other areas and introduce new and less invasive ways to detect cancers early. “The idea of detecting tumors in an early state and without typical procedures is appealing,” Royea says. “We will likely see revolutionary changes to medicine over the next decade.”

“The Internet of things is still in the early stages, but it promises to save lives,” adds Joseph Bradley, a Cisco vice president who has worked with Cyrcadia to promote the technology.