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The market for lung cancer screening could be on the rise

The CT scanning sector has been earmarked for growth, thanks to an uptick in annual lung cancer screenings. But this could also be indicative of a killer opportunity and a ready market for the scads of cancer diagnostics startups out there. Here’s why: Lung cancer’s got a pretty bleak rep. With a five-year survival rate that’s still less than 16 percent, it takes […]

The CT scanning sector has been earmarked for growth, thanks to an uptick in annual lung cancer screenings. But this could also be indicative of a killer opportunity and a ready market for the scads of cancer diagnostics startups out there. Here’s why:

Lung cancer’s got a pretty bleak rep. With a five-year survival rate that’s still less than 16 percent, it takes early, aggressive intervention is paramount to curb the disease’s spread.

Advanced screening techniques are helping catch these cancers in their nascence. The top spot goes to CT scanning, thanks to the “medical community’s growing belief that annual CT screens of current or former smokers at high risk for lung cancer will save lives through early detection,” a piece in Modern Healthcare points out. Indeed, CT scanning for lung cancer is on the rise, the article says: 

The CMS has proposed covering screening for millions of eligible Medicare beneficiaries, which is expected to create a lucrative market for hospitals and medical manufacturers.

Some CT scanner manufacturers are already marketing consulting services and technology to hospitals to help them develop their lung-cancer screening service lines.

“Almost every one of our customers is looking at this,” said Michael Cwalinski, a product manager for the CT business at medical-imaging system manufacturer Siemens Healthcare North America.

These low-dose spiral CT scans received the American Lung Association’s seal of approval in 2011 for its improvement over X-ray imaging in detecting lung cancer.

But this could be indicative of a killer opportunity and a ready market for the scads of cancer diagnostics startups out there.

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A Deep-dive Into Specialty Pharma

A specialty drug is a class of prescription medications used to treat complex, chronic or rare medical conditions. Although this classification was originally intended to define the treatment of rare, also termed “orphan” diseases, affecting fewer than 200,000 people in the US, more recently, specialty drugs have emerged as the cornerstone of treatment for chronic and complex diseases such as cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

 

Take Orion Genomics, which is developing a molecular screening test that analyzes sputum samples for lung cancer biomarkers. Or VOC Diagnostics, a Louisville startup that is finding a way to screen the breath a patient exhales into a bag.

There are plenty of challenges, to be sure – setting up the infrastructure for standardized lung cancer screenings is quite challenging. MH continues:

But experts say setting up screening programs is complex. Hospitals also must train primary-care doctors on how to identify which patients should be screened, establish navigators to track and work with patients, and purchase or develop radiology workflow systems.

Bay Area startup Miroculus is developing a single blood test that screens for dozens of cancer – including lung – with an open-sourced device called Miriam. It’s meant to be used by untrained health workers and available at low cost – so clearly, cost-effective solutions for these screening issues are well underway.

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