Nov 1, 2015 | By Alec

Fighting cancer with your smartphone? That is exactly what an initiative by Israeli startup MobileODT is trying to do. With the help of a 3D printed accessory called the Mobile Colposcope, MobileODT has developed a method for making ‘cervix selfies’, magnified photos of a cervix that enable doctors to easily detect and prevent the development of cervical cancer. It’s a simple and affordable initiative that will enable doctors to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients across the developing world, where other diagnostic tools cannot be afforded.

Ironically, cervical cancer is one of those killers that can be easily prevented, but still kills nearly 300,000 women annually. It used to be one of the leading cancer killers in the west, but the development of cervical cancer screening those numbers have dropped dramatically. Regular pap smear testing flags women on time for further examination with colposcopies, enabling doctors to catch the issue on time. So where are all those women dying? The developing world; an extremely disproportionate number of women die of cervical cancer in Africa, South America and so on, because prevention equipment is just too expensive. Up to 85% of women dying from cancer in those regions are affected by it.

Fortunately, this Israeli initiative has pointed us to a simple solution: a combination of 3D printing and the smartphones that have even invaded the developing world. MobileODT is located in Tel Aviv and was launched back in 2012 by David Levitz and Ariel Beery. They found their solution in our pockets, and have been developing their product since then with the help of over $3 million in grants, winning the Vodafone Americas Foundation 2014 Wireless Innovation Project and the 2015 MedTech Innovator competition along the way (winning $200,000).

They have affectively created a pocket colopscope, a magnification device used for imaging the cervix that typically costs up to $15,000. Their version is cheap, accessible, and lets your smartphone do most of the work. ‘MobileODT uses mobile phones to detect cancer and other diseases. We develop point-of-care diagnostic solutions for the global market and our vision is to enable healthcare professionals to deliver care whenever it is needed, anywhere in the world,’ they explain. ‘Our first product is a low-cost mobile colposcope used to screen for cervical cancer in low-resource settings worldwide. We are rapidly expanding our product line to detect cancers affecting oral, anal, and dermatological tissue as well. At the core of our approach are two complementary innovations: powerful collaboration and telehealth features that enable healthcare providers to improve case management and optimize use of healthcare resources, and cutting-edge biomedical optics that aid in more accurate diagnosis of cancer at its earliest stages.’

Their Mobile Colposcope hardware essentially consists of a light source and a magnifying lens, which give the phone’s camera an excellent visualization of any tissue abnormality. Analyzed by physicians, they can quickly and easily determine the health of the patient and undertake action if necessary. All transportation of photos is securely done via apps, that can also take care of imaging processing and cloud networking for second opinions. And with the prototyping costs being kept as low as possible through 3D printing, MobileODT can produce these accessories for just $800 to $1800, about a tenth of the original costs involved. ‘Our mission is to give anyone with access to a mobile phone the ability to save their lives and the lives of the people they love,’ Beery explained. ‘And the best way to do that is to make the hardware open source.’

So far, the Mobile Colposcope has been tested in locations such as Haiti, Guatemala, Botswana, Kenya and Nepal, and the response has been good. The current barrier is more cultural and practical, than technological. As Dr. Peter Thompson who worked with the tool in Guatemala explains, the situations there are terrible. ‘The saddest part is when we find women with cervical cancer who may have even been tested a few years ago  …  If you have cervical cancer in Guatemala, even in an early stage, probability of a successful outcome is very low,’ he explains. ‘In Guatemala, you don’t have much experience in training with colposcopy. We hope with the colposcope we could correlate that picture with the biopsy.’

According to MobileODT’s product manager Alon Metgold, it’s also a matter of convincing doctors and patients of what it can do. ‘I think that, especially when dealing with the developing world, there is a distance between the idea and the reality on the ground. [We must] bridge the gap between the idea in the west of communication and performing procedures, and actually doing it on the ground,’ he says. But as the same device could theoretically also be used for screening anal, oral and dermal cancers, the future looks bright for the Mobile Colposcope.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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