13% of all deaths in 2018 were caused by Cancer. It is the leading cause of death globally. Cancer India reported that 1 Indian woman dies of cervical cancer every 8 minutes! 1 case of breast cancer is detected every 4 minutes!
The WHO reports that 7.6 million people die due to cancer making it the leading cause of death. The number is estimated to reach to 13 million by 2030. More worrisome is that one-third of all cancer deaths can be prevented. Despite the advancement in cancer detection, we keep losing many of our loved ones.
Dr Manjiri Bakre experienced the same. Her friend died within 2 years of knowing she had cancer at the age of 30. Dr Manjiri, herself a postdoctoral fellow at Moores Cancer Center at the University of California, decided to do something about this. She has a PhD in Cell Biology from the IISc
She launched OncoStem Diagnostics Pvt. Ltd. in 2011. This diagnostic oncology startup has developed novel tests that help identify whether the patients have recurrence risk. The startup developed its flagship product - CanAssist Breast, which predicts the recurrence of breast cancer in a period of 5 years.
It uses the molecular fingerprint of the tumour and predicts recurrence risk by using proteomics and genomic-based platforms. The algorithm then provides a number between 1 and 100. If the patient gets below 15.5 then she is at a low risk of recurrence. The startup claims that its device works with a 95% accuracy. In the five years of their launch, they have tested over 1600 patients of which 70% were within the low-risk category.
This accuracy range is on par with their Western competitor - ExactSciences. Furthermore, the Western devices start with a price of Rs 3 lakh, OncoStem provides the same at Rs 60,000. The startup raised $1 million from Artiman Ventures in 2011 and later raised $6 million in their Series A round by existing partner Artiman Ventures and Sequoia Capital India. In 2021, the startup had won the Aegis Graham Bell Award in the category of Innovative Diagnostics.
Will such diagnostics startup help prevent the preventable cancer deaths?