Israeli start-up may revolutionize colon cancer detection

Researchers develop algorithm that analyzes blood samples from existing medical records to screen for the disease

Tamar Pileggi is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Test tubes filled with blood samples (Illustrative photo credit: Rebecca Zeffert/Flash90)
Test tubes filled with blood samples (Illustrative photo credit: Rebecca Zeffert/Flash90)

A new technology developed in Israel that uses an algorithm to screen blood samples from existing medical records may revolutionize the diagnosis of colon cancer and potentially save millions of lives.

Maccabi Health Services, together with researchers from Israeli start-up Medial Research, recently unveiled the new technology that uses a formula to analyze the results of standard blood tests to predict the likelihood of colon cancer years before the disease is detected.

The algorithm requires lab results that are a part of standard medical records and its prediction relies on math rather than advanced testing technology.

The screening method is inexpensive and its creators say it can easily be introduced and implemented in hospitals worldwide.

“Its very exciting to be the first company in the world to develop such a significant technology and we hope that the international community adopts this new tool,” Maccabi CEO Ran Sa’ar said at a press conference announcing the breakthrough on Tuesday.

Medial, established by Israelis — among them alumni of the IDF’s prestigious 8200 intelligence unit — hopes the discovery will transform diagnosis and treatment of the disease that is often detected too late for treatment.

Typically attacking people over 50, colon cancer can go unnoticed for years and often times is only discovered at the onset of abdominal pain, which patients can mistake for food poisoning.

After it’s discovered, the highly malignant disease can kill a patient in as little as several weeks.

In Israel, colon cancer is the third most common cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death, topped only by lung cancer.

A 2011 survey by the Colon Cancer Alliance found that 30 percent of the people whose doctors had recommended they undergo a colonoscopy to screen for the disease were too afraid to have the procedure done.

Jonathan Beck contributed to this report.

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