Test Uses Tears to Find Cancer

SPRINGDALE, AR -- - Dr. Steven Harms' fight to cure breast cancer is very personal.

"My mother had breast cancer," he said. "I was a freshman at the University of Arkansas."

Although his past lead him to his path, when it comes to finding cancer Dr. Harms is looking to the future. He is on the board of Ascendent DX -- a Springdale based research company that has created a test to detect breast cancer through a person's tears.

"The tears are kind of a reflection of the blood," Harms said. "Most people have difficulty drawing their own blood but tears are very accessible to people."

Doctor Suzanne Klimberg started the research at UAMS, Ascendant researchers then picked it, and have put it through three clinical validation studies. The test wouldn't replace mammograms - but would come before one.

"Mammography has very large false positive rates and some false negative rates," Omid Moghadam, CEO of Ascendent DX said. "It is complicated. You have to use imaging tests and it is something you have to go to a center for."

"When 50% of the people that qualify don't get a mammogram - we need something else," Dr. Harms said.

When it is first released you will be able to get this test at your doctor's office, and researchers hope eventually a drug store. The is a prototype made by NOW Diagnostics which is also a Springdale based company. You put a Schirmer strip in your eye to extract a tear, drop that tear onto this strip on the test. It looks for certain levels of protein biomarkers, and the color determines if it detects cancer. If it does, then a mammogram could find exactly where the cancer is.

"The key is to identify people that have the disease and identify them early," Dr. Harms said.

Doctors hope more women would check for breast cancer if it was a simple, less invasive process. So far, researchers say the tear test has a 90% accuracy rate.

"You compare that to the imaging tests that are available today and those are much higher numbers than what is available today," Moghadam said.

"That is about twice the sensitivity of mammography," Dr. Harms said.

Roughly 40% of women in the U.S. also have dense breast tissue, making it harder for a mammogram to detect cancer.

"Our target market is to offer it to women with dense breasts, " Moghadam said. "They need a test that is more accurate than the test that is out there."

The tear test is also affordable to make.

"This is one way of using high technology to simplify thing and lower the cost," Harms said.

Right now Ascendent DX is looking for investors and planning another large scale clinical trial. It is also working on FDA approval, and approval in Europe. Dr. Harms is excited about the future of detecting breast cancer - and saving lives - like his mother's.

"Most of the people who had breast cancer in 1971 died of their disease," Dr. Harms said. "It's quite a miracle that my mother is still alive. Perhaps this will give us even one more step to get it even earlier so we can decrease the size more and save even more lives."

For a more information, click here: www.ascendantdx.com

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