iPap: The Emerging Future of Cervical Cancer Screening Technology

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A simple device used much like a tampon accurately detects cervical diseases, such as HPV and cervical cancer, without patients having to step a foot in a doctor’s office.

Created and distributed by OncoGenesis, the iPap is anticipated to hit international markets during the first quarter of this year and the U.S. at the end of 2020.

“We’ve heard the adage, ‘the earlier you catch [cancer], the better.’ That is absolutely true with cervical disease. It is a slow-growing cancer. Having access to a screening program is key to saving lives,” said Paul Vichi, co-founder and chief technology officer at OncoGenesis.

Introducing iPap

This January, MedTruth observes cervical cancer awareness month by calling attention to early detection of the disease.

As the second most common cause of death from cancer in women worldwide, cervical cancer is diagnosed in 500,000 people each year and causes 274,000 deaths annually. Such numbers have declined over the past half of a century due to growing technologies in cervical cancer screening and prevention.

So, how exactly does iPap function?

Patients collect their own sample with the iPap device at home and deliver it to a processing center or pharmacy through the mail or in-person. The sample is then introduced to a cartridge that reads proteins and biomarkers from the sample, analyzing for evidence of disease. Results are reported in minutes. In eliminating the need for a doctor’s visit, iPap’s creator is essentially automating the process of a traditional Pap smear (or Pap test).

“The first priority for us was accessibility, having the means for a woman to collect her own sample,” said Peter Gombrich, co-founder and chairman of OncoGenesis. “But the critical element of our work is creating a totally different approach for detection of disease.”

Receiving results from a traditional Pap smear requires an assembly line of physicians, trained lab personnel, equipment and infrastructure, mounting to an average cost of $125. The iPap is expected to be significantly less costly than standardized methods.

Gombrich acknowledged that an at-home testing option could create screening opportunities for women denied regular healthcare due to cultural or religious beliefs.

“Whether it’s a simple pregnancy test, a test for colon cancer or a test to screen for cervical cancer — the more you give people the power to take a test in their own home, the more comfortable and the more likely they are to participate,” Vichi said.

The device can also be utilized in medical offices and pharmacies for on-the-spot results. While the average processing time for a Pap smear is two to three weeks, the iPap takes minutes. Patients receive immediate results, speeding up the path to determining the state of one’s health and deciphering a plan for care if results indicate the presence of disease.

“Having access to a screening program is key to saving lives.”

— Paul Vichi

The device can also be utilized in medical offices and pharmacies for on-the-spot results. While the average processing time for a Pap smear is two to three weeks, the iPap takes minutes. Patients receive immediate results, speeding up the path to determining the state of one’s health and deciphering a plan for care if results indicate the presence of disease.

Revolutionizing the Technology of Cervical Screening

Beyond cost and time investment, cervical screenings often aren’t accessible to people in developing nations that don’t have expensive infrastructure in place for it.

OncoGenesis hopes to revolutionize the decades-old Pap smear exam with 21st century medicine, granting accessibility to technologically-advanced screenings in regions of the world that have the highest incidence of disease, Gombrich said.

The current Pap smear testing looks at the cervix sample under a microscope, leaving it up to the human eye to recognize cell mutations and evidence of disease. Modern tests, like iPap, gather information from proteins and biomarkers to gain more objective and tangible results.

Biomarkers are a defined biological characteristic used as a baseline to indicate healthy biological functions. For example, cholesterol is a biomarker. There is a “normal” range for cholesterol, anything outside of that range could indicate coronary and vascular disease or inflammation.

According to Vichi, “people are realizing that you can use metrics and quantitative reporting as a more reliable means to determine results.”

By Tess Francke

Tess Francke is a freelance journalist and marketing specialist who has spent her career at the intersection of media, writing, design and health research. You will find her other byline in the National Foundation for Cancer Research blog and Research to Remission quarterly oncology magazine. She is a proud Detroit native with the mission is to facilitate the vital connection between populations and health information. She loves teaching fitness classes and her daily yoga practice.

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