Earlier this week, we were interested to read that the winner of this year’s international James Dyson Award has invented a home-testing kit to detect breast cancer.
The Blue Box, designed by 23-year-old Judit Giró Benet, is a “point-of-care biomedical device for pain-free, non-irradiating, non-invasive, low-cost and in-home breast cancer testing.
We asked our experts, James Harvey and Lester Barr their thoughts.
“The Blue Box is a potential new method of detecting breast cancer by analysing changes in the urine. It has the potential to enable women to check for breast cancer at home. It sounds like a nice idea, but this idea has a way to go before we see it used. The Blue Box is yet to be tested in patients to check that it works and to tell us how good it is at detecting breast cancers. Their next goal is to test the device on 300 patients with breast cancer, so far it is untested and unvalidated, it’s just a concept.
We need to know what proportion of breast cancers it can detect and what proportion it misses. Breast cancer is very variable between women, so finding a molecular signature that tells you “this is caused by a breast cancer” is extremely hard, it is likely to pick up breast cancers, but how many times will it come up with a false positive result? i.e. the test detects something requiring investigation but it’s not actually a breast cancer.
The advantages of mammography and MRI are, that they detect breast cancers at a very early stage where breast cancer cells are not detectable elsewhere in the body. If there are changes in the urine does this mean that the test is detecting more advanced cancers and a lower proportion of cancers that are early stage and more curable? For the test to be used it needs to be effective and to show that it has similar effectiveness as existing screening measures in detecting cancer.
There are previous studies that looked at changes in the blood, which can detect breast cancers, but not at an early stage like conventional breast screening. So, the Blue Box sounds like an interesting concept, we await with interest whether it has the accuracy to give us confidence in its results.” James Harvey – Chair of our Medical Advisory Board
“The Blue Box technology would be a wonderful step forward if clinical trials prove successful. There are some problems still to solve. The underlying technology needs to be trialled to determine its false positive and false negative rates in mass population screening. Also, it may only work in women with already well-established cancers, and for screening we need a test that can detect pre-cancer and minimal cancer stages. We will see how the next clinical trial looks.” Lester Barr – Prevent Breast Cancer Chairman
You can find out more about The Blue Box here.