A new company has been launched whose aim is to make the early detection of colorectal cancer faster and more efficient. The company is MiWEndo Solutions, a spin-off promoted by the BCN Medtech research unit of the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), in collaboration with the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya · BarcelonaTech (UPC), Hospital Clínic and the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies (ICREA).
At the incorporation of the company, held on 18 September in Barcelona, participants included the eight founding members and the manager of the UPF, Jaume Badia; the rector of the UPC, Francesc Torres; the manager of the Fundació Clínic per a la Recerca Biomèdica, Rosa Vilavella; and the executive director of ICREA, Emilià Pola. Founders of the company from the UPC are Jordi Romeu, Lluís Jofre and Joan O’callaghan, researchers in the Specific Research Centre in Communication and Detection (CommSensLab-UPC).
Colorectal cancer is a very common disease among the over 50s. Screening programmes have been introduced to detect the disease in early stages when it is easier to treat and can be cured. Screening ends with a colonoscopy, during which doctors use a camera to check whether there are any polyps in the patient’s colon. If any are found, they are removed to stop them from developing into cancer. The problem is that these lesions are not always easy to find because of the limited visibility in colonoscopies.
The solution that is being developed by MiWEndo Solutions will address this problem using a low-cost medical device that can be used during colonoscopies to facilitate the identification of malignant polyps, precursors of cancer, using microwave technology.
This small accessory is placed at the end of colonoscopes and has a set of sensors that can be used to scan the large intestine. When a polyp is found, the device immediately notifies doctors so that they can locate the polyp visually, as they do with a standard colonoscope.
Therefore, the device will be compatible with the methods that are used currently for colonoscopies and will have various advantages. It will detect polyps automatically. Consequently, its capacity does not depend on the visibility during the intervention or the doctor’s experience. In addition, an immediate diagnosis of the state of polyps will mean that the urgency of each case can be determined rapidly, to prioritise patients with the most serious disease. In the long-term, this could alleviate the workload of hospital pathology departments, which currently have to analyse a large number of samples.
The promotors of the project have already produced a prototype and demonstrated that it can automatically identity polyps in human tissues. Now, the aim of the company is to develop the product, do the required clinical trials and adapt the device to requirements so that it can be marketed from mid-2023 inEurope, the United States and Japan (the countries with the greatest incidence of colorectal cancer where the most colonoscopies are carried out).