Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

H2020

SOFT — Result In Brief

Project ID: 791086
Country: Israel
Domain: Health, Fundamental Research , Digital Economy

A smartphone application for colorectal cancer screening

European scientists developed a smartphone camera-based tool for prompt screening of colorectal cancer. Early detection is a crucial factor in patient survival.
A smartphone application for colorectal cancer screening
You don’t feel colorectal cancer starting, and when you do, it may be too late. Colorectal cancer is a slow-progressing cancer that may be undetectable in early stages; so annual testing is required to ensure effective, lifesaving screening. The gold standard for non-invasive colorectal cancer screening is the faecal occult blood test, which detects blood in the stool. The test relies on the fact that cancerous tumours and some pre-cancerous polyps bleed intermittently into the intestine.

Despite current guidelines that recommend annual colorectal cancer screening for ages 50-74, less than 37 % of people within that age group perform testing consistent with these recommendations. The main reason behind this poor patient compliance is the fact that people are embarrassed or averse to handling faeces and having to obtain, store and return the samples for laboratory interpretation.

To address this challenge, the EU-funded SOFT project developed an accurate, simple to use, and cost-effective colorectal cancer screening device. The SOFT method relies on visual detection of asymptomatic colorectal cancer through the processing of a sample picture. A major bonus, it requires no collecting and handling of a feces sample by the patient, no lengthy and costly shipment and laboratory interpretation. “Our aim was to come up with an approach that would save lives overcoming patient embarrassment and guaranteeing screening compliance,″ explains project coordinator and CEO of SOFT Medical Ltd, Mr Yaron Front.

A smartphone camera-based device

The unique light absorption and reflection properties of blood are well documented in scientific literature. “The SOFT solution relies on detection and analysis of the unique optical signatures of occult blood – blood in faeces invisible to the naked eye – for assessment of the risk of colorectal cancer,″ continues Front.

The SOFT solution uses a picture sequence on a smartphone instead of a chemical/biological test. By doing so, it eliminates human errors associated with the handling, storage and delivery of stool samples and kits. Importantly, it eliminates the need for laboratory analysis.

Clinical implementation

Researchers constructed a fully functional SOFT prototype containing all the components of the final device. The prototype was tested with human samples and demonstrated high accuracy of detection, thereby validating the suitability of the method for colorectal cancer screening. Implementation of the approach in the clinic will undoubtedly offer enhanced healthcare to individuals over existing solutions.

The next step of the project is to convert the prototype into a commercial device ready for mass production and perform clinical studies to obtain regulatory clearance. Particular emphasis is given to the development of a solution that could be endorsed by the EU in national and local cancer screening programmes across Member States.

As Front emphasises, “to develop cutting edge medical devices we must focus on saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of colorectal cancer patients diagnosed every year and overcome all challenges, working beyond profit and financial considerations.″ Undoubtedly, the support from the H2020 programme has helped the SOFT team achieve their objective and generate a superior technology for more accurate colorectal cancer detection.

After mapping out the market accessibility in each of the EU Member States, SOFT researchers have built the optimal path for gaining acceptance and market share for the colorectal cancer screening device. By easing patient participation to the test, Front is confident that the SOFT screening device will contribute significantly to early cancer detection and reduce cancer mortality.

Keywords

SOFT, colorectal cancer, camera, smartphone
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