Close to 250 participants in the Komen Ozark Race for the Cure® this spring were happy to donate their tears to be used in population studies for a new breast cancer screening test under development.
Ascendant Diagnostics in Fayetteville, Ark. is developing the company’s first product, MelodyDx™, a pain-free screening test that is designed to detect the presence of breast cancer using the protein profile of an individual’s tears. Potential advantages of MelodyDx over mammography include:
- Greater accuracy
- A less invasive and less expensive procedure
- Ability to detect cancer at earlier stages
- Capability of being used to screen males
- Ability to be administered in an office setting
Collecting Tear Samples for Breast Cancer Research
Collecting tears from individuals, with and without breast cancer, to test for proteins that may indicate the presence of breast cancer is an important first step in the research process.
“Tear samples collected from hundreds of race attendees at the Ozark’s Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure provided a good opportunity in adding to Ascendant’s ‘tear bank’ with samples from the general population,” explains Anna Daily, PhD, chief scientist, Ascendant Diagnostics. Tear samples also were collected from men, a population for whom there is currently no screening, as well as from breast cancer survivors. “These samples will be used in future research applications of MelodyDx,” adds Dr. Daily.
Ascendant Diagnostics currently is conducting clinical studies with five clinics nationwide. These clinics are collecting tears from patients coming in for biopsy analysis of a breast mass as well as those being treated for breast cancer (and other cancers) at various stages. Arkansas clinics include The Breast Center and Highlands Oncology Group in Fayetteville and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Winthrop Rockefeller Cancer Clinic for Women in Little Rock. Participating clinics in the state of Washington include Kearney Breast Center at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver and PeaceHealth Medical Group-Surgery in Longview.
Race Attendees Happy to Help Promote Research
“Participating clinics are meeting the need for tear samples collected from patients with masses as well as those being treated for breast cancer (and other cancers),” says Dr. Daily. “Our company’s greatest need was to fill the ‘tear bank’ with samples for general population studies, a step necessary for commercialization of a diagnostic test. The Ozark race was the perfect setting for recruiting general population tear sample volunteers.”
Race attendee, Lindsay Rutherford, PhD, a scientist at Biologics MD in Fayetteville, Ark. provided a tear sample because she wants to support this research in any way she can. “I have a history of breast cancer in my family – my mom, my aunt and my grandmother all have been diagnosed with pre-cancerous cells or cancer…” says Dr. Rutherford. “It would be amazing to be able to screen for breast cancer with an eye wash instead of a mammogram and/or MRI.” she says. “I think women would be more comfortable with this technique and would be more willing to get tested.”
Kim Davison, a clinical research nurse at Highlands Oncology Group (HOG) in Fayetteville, Ark., helps screen for potential patients and obtain informed consent as well as collecting tear samples. She volunteered to collect tears at the Ozark race along with Dr. Daily, and other nurses and support staff from HOG and The Breast Center.
“Hundreds of race attendees were willing to help promote the research by volunteering their tears,” notes Davison. “Many people waited in a long line in the rain in order to let us collect their tear samples.”
Striving for Early Detection of Breast Cancer
Davison is very excited and hopeful about the development of Ascendant Diagnostic’s potential new cancer screening product. “It would be such a big development toward early detection of breast cancer,” says Davison. “I think more women would be willing to have a tear sample screening done vs. traditional screening methods.”
“MelodyDx is the first product that Ascendant Diagnostics is developing to substantially increase the accuracy of cancer diagnostics, enable detection of disease at the earliest possible stage and improve patient compliance,” says Dr. Daily. “We are working to accomplish these goals through the use of non-invasive, pain-free and lower-cost diagnostic tools.”
Ascendant Diagnostics, LLC, based in Fayetteville, Ark. is a VIC Technology Development portfolio company.
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