THE BLOG

Breast Cancer Business Challenge

06/03/2014 12:30 GMT | Updated 06/05/2014 10:59 BST

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*Grecia Gonzalez [2012] is doing a PhD in Biochemistry at the University of Cambridge.

On February 10, 2013, my mother passed away after a three-year battle with breast cancer. Walking beside her on her journey was a life-changing experience for everyone in my family and it is an unfortunately all-too-common experience to have. Approximately one in eight women is diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in her lifetime and though advances in treatment have facilitated great strides in increasing survival after diagnosis, 40,000 women still die from breast cancer in the US every year.

Diseases like breast cancer, which wage total war against patients, are not easily resolved by currently available technologies, and new solutions are essential to solve the challenges they present. To that end, the Avon Foundation, The National Cancer Institute and The Center for Advancing Innovation have partnered to organize a "first of a kind" international, university student-based startup competition: the Breast Cancer Startup Challenge. Launched in October, 2013, this Challenge provides an opportunity for students to develop a business plan for an innovative technology and launch a startup with the goal of bringing to market novel and high-impact technologies to tilt the scales in the fight against breast cancer.

My team is one of the winners of the business plan phase of the Challenge, and we are excited to be able to take our startup, Radial Genomics Ltd., forward. Early diagnosis is considered by many the foundation of recent successes in breast cancer survival rates, but increased screening efforts are a double edged sword: more and more cancers are being caught at a curable stage, but some early stage cancers are also being caught that may never progress or pose a danger to the patient. This ambiguity poses a difficult challenge for doctors. No current tool in medicine specifically addresses the distinction between early stage cancer and invasive subtypes, which require more careful and aggressive treatment planning to resolve, potentially leading to unnecessary surgery and/or chemotherapy. These early stage cancers account for 20% of all breast cancer diagnoses, and 25-50% of these cases become invasive within 10 years. Moreover, many patients do not want to risk their lives on a bet that a cancer may not develop. This makes treatment planning all the more challenging since over-diagnosis and over-treatment are chronic problems in our healthcare system today, harming patients and costing our economy billions.

Radial Genomics Ltd. is working hard to provide the solution to this ambiguity in early stage cancer diagnosis. We are a cancer diagnostics company using proprietary technology to diagnose and guide treatment in breast cancer patients through a novel, quantitative method of assessing changes in a patient's genetic material in response to cancer. It is our hope that with our technology, we can improve patients' quality of life and outcomes by giving doctors and patients the most comprehensive understanding of a patients' cancer going forward.

My team is happy to be developing Radial Genomics Ltd. As a biochemist, I have never stopped learning and growing since this team, which includes finance, law, engineering, and medical specialties, came together. A startup is a team effort and we and our mentors are confident we have the skills and passion to make Radial Genomics Ltd. and the promise of our game-changing technology a reality.

My own experience with breast cancer was a study in guessing and hoping. My team and I want to make sure that future patients never have to guess again.