Colorectal Cancer (CRC) is the second most frequent malignant disease, and the second deadliest cancer in Europe. Every year, 412 000 people are diagnosed with this condition, and 207 000 patients die of it. Yet, CRC is a highly treatable cancer if detected early: 9 out of 10 cases of CRC could be treated successfully if diagnosed at an early stage. Mass screening saves lives, but has low participation due to a cumbersome and expensive process.
The gold-standard for non-invasive CRC screening is the Faecal Occult Blood Test (FOBT). Cancerous tumours and some large polyps bleed intermittently into the intestine. This blood can be detected in stool by using the FOBT kit. This is a highly uncomfortable procedure for the majority of patients as they need to handle and store often multiple faecal samples. When physicians are asked what the main barriers to FOBT are, 93.9% of them confirm: “Patient embarrassment/anxiety”.
A positive FOBT result triggers a follow-up colonoscopy to confirm the source of bleeding. However, since FOBT does not identify the origin of the detected blood a lot of false-positive results lead to clinicians performing costly, invasive, painful and unnecessary colonoscopy tests: 91% – 96% of colonoscopies, triggered by a positive FOBT result, are superfluous.
The ambition of SOFT Medical is to deliver a CRC mass screening tool finally able to solve FOBT’s shortcomings. Their solution relies on the optical signature of occult blood (blood invisible to the naked eye in faeces) in order to assess the presence of CRC. The unique light absorption and reflection properties of blood are well documented in scientific literature. The SOFT device leverages such uniqueness to provide accurate and immediate results.
Using SOFT is as easy as using a smartphone camera: simply point at the sample and shoot a picture, the image processing software does the rest. Eliminating the behavioural barrier is expected to increase by 67% the number of people carrying out the tests and, in turn, an increase in early detection rates of CRC.
In addition to detecting occult blood, SOFT provides information about blood origin and spatial distribution, which provides further supporting information of the bleeding eliminating the vast majority of false positives.