‘Limitless’: Turkish scientist breaks new ground with cancer detection tech

A renowned Turkish scientist continues to carve a distinguished path for herself on the global stage through her remarkable inventions, the latest being wearable ultrasound technology, which is changing the way we diagnose various types of cancer.

Canan Dagdeviren has been breaking new ground in the world of medical technology for years now, with a few of her most prominent inventions being a wearable pacemaker and a machine that can detect skin cancer in a matter of seconds.

The inspiration for her latest breakthrough came from a particularly painful personal experience – the death of an aunt who was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer despite regular screenings.

A postdoctoral researcher at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) at the time, Dagdeviren set out on a mission “to help as many women as possible.”

She conceptualized a preliminary design for a wearable ultrasound scanner seamlessly integrated into a bra to enable more frequent screenings for individuals at heightened risk of breast cancer.

“It was just a dream on a piece of paper back then. But now it’s real,” she told Anadolu in a video interview.

Dagdeviren and her team at MIT recently demonstrated the device’s ability to capture images with a level of detail similar to ultrasound probes found in medical facilities.

The team tested the device on a 71-year-old woman with a history of breast cysts and was able to successfully detect cysts as tiny as 0.3 centimeters in diameter, the size of initial-stage tumors.

The trials also showed the device’s resolution paralleled that of conventional ultrasound technology, enabling imaging of tissue at depths reaching up to 8 centimeters.

The device will allow users “to image and visualize their breast tissue with a single-shot image without any scanning, without any doctor, without any radiologist involved, and this data goes to your iPhone and is processed,” she explained.

The technology and the early detection it allows can “increase the survival rate up to 98%,” she added.

‘Versatile technology’

The uses of the device will go beyond just breast cancer detection, said Dagdeviren.

“This technology is versatile, not only for breast cancer, it can also be used for other types of cancer assessment, like kidney cancer,” she said.

She said they are also working on technology for specially designed underwear to monitor bladder volume, which gives a good estimation of kidney health.

“The device can also be laminated on the belly of a pregnant woman,” she said.

“I even did a real demo at MIT of how this technology can help me monitor my baby. I can see the features of my baby and monitor how the baby is moving.”

She is intent on leveraging the technology to positively impact millions of women worldwide.

“I think the applications are limitless, so we can use it for different types of organs, which are very hard to reach and visualize, like pancreatic cancer or ovarian cancer,” she explained.

“These types of cancer are very hard to diagnose at an early stage. So with this kind of detection, up to 12 centimeters deep … I feel like there are a lot of things that we can do.”

Saving lives and money

This technology has the potential to “save up to 11 million lives per year globally,” said Dagdeviren.

She said it will also cut “spending on cancer by half.”

“Just in 2020, insurance companies paid over $30 billion for cancer research and spending … and this amount is increasing by 20% every single year,” she explained.

“Not only will this technology increase the survival rate up to 98%, it will also decrease a lot of medical costs and have a great impact on society.”

Dagdeviren said they are “hoping to launch a company at the end of this year, or early next year, to bring this technology into the real market.” ​​​​​​​

“We are currently looking for investors and partners who can be a part of this company, and we are very much open to any kind of dialogue and conversation.”