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  • Almost a year ago, my aunt started suffering back pains.

  • She went to see the doctor and they told her it was a normal injury

  • for someone who had been playing tennis for almost 30 years.

  • They recommended that she do some therapy

  • But after a while she wasn't feeling better, so the doctors decided to do further tests.

  • They did an x-ray and discovered an injury in her lungs,

  • and at the time they thought that the injury was a strain in the muscles and tendons between her ribs,

  • but after a few weeks of treatment, again her health wasn't getting any better.

  • So finally, they decided to do a biopsy, and two weeks later, the results of the biopsy came back.

  • It was stage 3 lung cancer.

  • Her lifestyle was almost free of risk.

  • She never smoked a cigarette, she never drank alcohol, and she had been playing sports for almost half her life

  • Perhaps, that is why it took them almost six months to get her properly diagnosed.

  • My story might be, unfortunately, familiar to most of you.

  • One out of three people sitting in this audience will be diagnosed with some type of cancer

  • and one out of four will die because of it. Not only did that cancer diagnosis change the life of our family,

  • but that process of going back and forth with new tests, different doctors describing symptoms

  • discarding diseases over and over, was stressful and frustrating, especially for my aunt.

  • And that is the way cancer diagnosis has been done since the beginning of history.

  • We have 21st-century medical treatments and drugs to treat cancer,

  • but we still have 20th-century procedures and processes for diagnosis, if any.

  • Today, most of us have to wait for symptoms to indicate that something is wrong.

  • Today, the majority of people still don't have access to early cancer detection methods

  • even though we know that catching cancer early is basically the closest thing we have to a silver bullet cure against it.

  • We know that we can change this in our lifetime, and that is why my team and I have decided to begin this journey

  • This journey to try to make cancer detection at the early stages

  • And monitoring the appropriate response at the molecular level

  • easier, cheaper, smarter and more accessible than ever before.

  • The context, of course, is that we're living at a time where technology is disrupting our present at exponential rates

  • and the biological realm is no exception.

  • It is said today that biotech is advancing at least six times faster than the growth rate of the processing power of computers.

  • But progress in biotech is not only being accelerated, it is also being democratized.

  • Just as personal computers or the Internet or smartphones leveled the playing field for entrepreneurship

  • politics or education, recent advances have leveled it up for biotech progress as well

  • and that is allowing multidisciplinary teams like ours to try to tackle and look at these problems with new approaches.

  • We are a team of scientists and

  • technologists from Chile, Panama, Mexico, Israel and Greece,

  • and based on recent scientific discoveries, we believe that we have found a reliable and accurate way of detecting several types of cancer

  • at the very early stages through a blood sample.

  • We do it by detecting a set of very small molecules that circulate freely in our blood called microRNAs.

  • To explain what microRNAs are and their important role in cancer, I need to start with proteins

  • because when cancer is present in our body, protein modification is observed in all cancerous cells

  • As you might know, proteins are large biological molecules that perform different functions within our body

  • Like catalyzing metabolic reactions or responding to stimuli or replicating DNA,

  • but before a protein is expressed or produced, relevant parts of its genetic code present in the DNA are copied into the messenger RNA

  • so this messenger RNA has instructions on how to build a specific protein

  • and potentially it can build hundreds of proteins,

  • but the one that tells them when to build them and how many to build are microRNAs.

  • So microRNAs are small molecules that regulate gene expression.

  • Unlike DNA, which is mainly fixed, microRNAs can vary depending on internal and environmental conditions at any given time

  • telling us which genes are actively expressed at that particular moment.

  • And that is what makes microRNAs such a promising biomarker for cancer

  • because as you know, cancer is a disease of altered gene expression.

  • It is the uncontrolled regulation of genes.

  • Another important thing to consider is that no two cancers are the same, but at the microRNA level, there are patterns.

  • Several scientific studies have shown that abnormal microRNA expression levels varies

  • and creates a unique, specific pattern for each type of cancer,

  • even at the early stages, reflecting the progression of the disease,

  • and whether it's responding to medication or in remission, making microRNAs a perfect, highly sensitive biomarker

  • However, the problem with microRNAs is that we cannot use existing DNA-based technology to detect them in a reliable way,

  • because they are very short sequences of nucleotides, much smaller than DNA.

  • And also, all microRNAs are very similar to each other, with just tiny differences.

  • So imagine trying to differentiate two molecules, extremely similar, extremely small.

  • We believe that we have found a way to do so, and this is the first time that we've shown it in public.

  • Let me do a demonstration.

  • Imagine that next time you go to your doctor and do your next standard blood test

  • a lab technician extracts a total RNA, which is quite simple today, and puts it in a standard 96-well plate like this one.

  • Each well of these plates has specific biochemistry that we assign,

  • that is looking for a specific microRNA, acting like a trap that closes only when the microRNA is present in the sample,

  • and when it does, it will shine with green color.

  • To run the reaction, you put the plate inside a device like this one, and then you can put your smartphone on top of it.

  • If we can have a camera here so you can see my screen.

  • A smartphone is a connected computer and it's also a camera, good enough for our purpose.

  • The smartphone is taking pictures, and when the reaction is over, it will send the pictures to our online database for processing and interpretation.

  • This entire process lasts around 60 minutes, but when the process is over,

  • wells that shine are matched with the specific microRNAs and analyzed in terms of how much and how fast they shine.

  • And then, when this entire process is over, this is what happens.

  • This chart is showing the specific microRNAs present in this sample and how they reacted over time.

  • Then, if we take this specific pattern of microRNA of this person's samples

  • and compare it with existing scientific documentation that correlates microRNA patterns with a specific presence of a disease,

  • this is how pancreatic cancer looks like. This inside is a real sample where we just detected pancreatic cancer.

  • (Applause)

  • Another important aspect of this approach is the gathering and mining of data in the cloud,

  • so we can get results in real time and analyze them with our contextual information

  • If we want to better understand and decode diseases like cancer, we need to stop treating them as acute, isolated episodes,

  • and consider and measure everything that affects our health on a permanent basis.

  • This entire platform is a working prototype. It uses state-of-the-art molecular biology,

  • a low-cost, 3D-printed device, and data science to try to tackle one of humanity's toughest challenges.

  • Since we believe early cancer detection should really be democratized,

  • this entire solution costs at least 50 times less than current available methods,

  • and we know that the community can help us accelerate this even more, so we're making the design of the device open-source.

  • (Applause)

  • Let me say very clearly that we are at the very early stages,

  • but so far, we have been able to successfully identify the microRNA pattern of pancreatic cancer

  • lung cancer, breast cancer and hepatic cancer.

  • And currently, we're doing a clinical trial in collaboration with the German Cancer Research Center with 200 women for breast cancer.

  • (Applause)

  • This is the single non-invasive, accurate and affordable test that has the potential

  • to dramatically change how cancer procedures and diagnostics have been done.

  • Since we're looking for the microRNA patterns in your blood at any given time,

  • you don't need to know which cancer you're looking for.

  • You don't need to have any symptoms. You only need one milliliter of blood and a relatively simple array of tools.

  • Today, cancer detection happens mainly when symptoms appear.

  • That is, at stage 3 or 4, and I believe that is too late.

  • It is too expensive for our families. It is too expensive for humanity.

  • We cannot lose the war against cancer.

  • It not only costs us billions of dollars, but it also costs us the people we love.

  • Today, my aunt, she's fighting bravely and going through this process with a very positive attitude.

  • However, I want fights like this to become very rare.

  • I want to see the day when cancer is treated easily because it can be routinely diagnosed at the very early stages,

  • and I'm certain that in the very near future, because of this and other breakthroughs that we are seeing every day in the life sciences,

  • the way we see cancer will radically change.

  • It will give us the chance of detecting it early, understanding it better, and finding a cure.

  • Thank you very much.

Almost a year ago, my aunt started suffering back pains.

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TED】ホルヘ・ソト:早期がん検診の未来? (【TED】Jorge Soto: The future of early cancer detection?)

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    Go Tutor に公開 2021 年 01 月 14 日
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