Cervical cancer is the easiest female cancer to prevent, because there are highly effective vaccines available, and precancerous cells can be detected by Pap tests and treated before they turn into cancer. Yet, in some areas of the world with lower incomes, cervical cancer incidence rates are still high, partially because of limited access to screening.
A medical device startup called Eve Medical is hoping to reduce some of the barriers that prevent women from being screened by allowing them to collect their own samples that can be tested for HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer.
Eve Medical is developing HerSwab, a device that looks kind of like a tampon with a small rotating handle on top. Inside the device is a swab that extends when the handle is turned, to collect a sample from the cervix area.
Under the model that CEO Jessica Ching has in mind, organizations that run screening programs in countries with universal healthcare systems would send self-sampling kits to women they know are high-risk or don’t get regularly screened. Women would use them to collect their samples and mail them back to a lab to be processed. It’s the same science as current tests for HPV, just a different way of going about it, she said.
In the U.S., an over-the-counter sales model would make more sense, she added.
A 2013 analysis of 10 studies found compliance to HPV self-collected testing to be significantly higher than traditional Pap testing. But research has also found self-collected samples to be slightly less sensitive in identifying precancerous growth.
At the Reinventing Early Stage Life Science Investing conference on Monday, Ching told me the company is in the middle of a study using the device for chlamydia testing. Once it completes that, it will move onto an HPV study.
Eve Medical is based in Toronto.
[Image credit: Eve Medical]