DIGITAL HEALTH BRIEFING: Blood test could be used to detect 8 types of cancers — FDA aims to attract cutting-edge medtech to the US — Sharp Healthcare partners with Apple’s CareKit

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BLOOD TEST USES MACHINE LEARNING TO DETECT MULTIPLE EARLY STAGE CANCERS: Scientists at Johns Hopkins University are edging closer towards developing a blood test that is capable of accurately detecting eight different cancers, long before any symptoms of the disease arise, according to Medscape. The test, dubbed CancerSEEK, screens for some of the most common and deadly cancers, including cancers of the ovary, liver, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, colon, lung and breast, all at once – these cancers account for more than 60% of cancer deaths in the US.

For the project to be successful, researchers have had to compile troves of DNA data, which can be used to identify cancers. CancerSEEK analyzes genetic mutations in DNA that have been deposited by cancerous cells into the bloodstream. However, this can prove to be quite challenging as there could be thousands of pieces of DNA in just one blood sample, while cancerous cells may account for only a couple. To overcome this problem, researchers gathered data from more than three decades of cancer genetics research, processing thousands of records from each blood test.

To gain actionable insights from this data, the team relied on digital technologies. To aid them in sequencing DNA in an efficient and cost-effective manner, researchers used solutions by Illumina and Bio-Rad, according to GenomeWeb. The team then used the outputs from these solutions and their own machine learning capabilities to accurately detect cancers – CancerSEEK was able to detect cancer in 70% of blood samples pulled from 1,005 patients. Further, in 83% of patients researchers could narrow down the location of a tumor to just a few sites.

The use of genetic information to help diagnose and treat individuals is a segment of the healthcare market that is poised for growth. The global genomics market is expected to reach $23.8 billion by 2022, up from $14.7 billion in 2017, according to Research and Markets. That’s a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10%, according to Research and Markets.

FDA WANTS TO ATTRACT MEDTECH INNOVATION TO THE US BY 2021: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to make the US more appealing to medical device makers by the end of 2020, according to the FDA’s 2018-2020 strategy document. Currently, many device manufacturers target Europe as their initial product launch market before taking on the mammoth task of getting enough evidence to receive FDA approval to market in the US, FierceBiotech notes. To address this, the FDA plans to boost its employee engagement by 10 percentage points, streamline 80% of its processes, and form 10 collaborative communities by the end of 2020. These three priorities should help speed the process by which new technology is approved for the US health system. The goal is to make the US a top priority for more than 50% of novel medical device manufacturers. The move is just the latest by the FDA aimed at making it easier for medical companies to get devices and digital health products to market. For example, in October 2017, the administration announced two new guidances that sought to expedite the approval process, thereby allowing manufacturers to bring new or updated products to the market more quickly.

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BI Intelligence

SHARP HEALTHCARE USES APPLE’S CAREKIT TO DEVELOP MOBILE SOLUTION: Sharp Healthcare, the San Diego-based health system, is using Apple’s open source health toolkit, CareKit, to develop a mobile solution, according to Mobi Health News. The Sharp Health Companion app will help aid patients throughout their surgery experience. This includes giving patients important pre-surgery and post-surgery reminders, allowing them to monitor their own health, and enabling them to share health data with clinicians. In a pilot, which included 32 cataract surgery patients, the new app saw positive outcomes – 90% of patients found that the app gave them a better understanding of post-surgery instructions and 97% said they would use the app for other procedures or surgeries, if available. CareKit is Apple’s big play to take a share of the mobile health (mHealth) market. The mHealth solutions market – of which health apps account for roughly 20% – is expected to grow at an annualized rate of 33% through 2020, reaching $59 billion, according to Markets and Markets. The biggest markets on a regional basis are North America and Europe, both of which house large shares of iOS devices. This gives Apple ample opportunity to capitalize on this market and makes it an appealing platform for mHealth companies looking for a launchpad for their products.

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BI Intelligence

THE LACK OF DEDICATED MOBILE APPS COULD BE SLOWING MHEALTH ADOPTION: Despite the growing use of mobile phones by healthcare staff, around 50% of healthcare organizations in the UK have had to build their own mobile apps to address the needs of their staff, according to a new survey by Digital Health Intelligence and Samsung. The dearth of available apps could be inhibiting broader adoption of mobile technology within the healthcare industry. This, in turn, could limit the ability for healthcare workers to take advantage of mobile tech for things like telemedicine and virtual care. That’s a problem considering that 96% of survey participants saw “increased benefits” from working remotely. Until more designated apps are designed for clinics and hospitals, it’s unlikely that there will be a rise in tablet usage in care settings, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust director of informatics Darren McKenna said in the survey.