Hillel's tech corner: Early Detection Saves Lives

Todos Medical is using artificial intelligence to help detect a variety of cancers and other conditions.

cells (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
CEO: Herman Weiss MD MBA
Chief Business Officer: Rami Zigdon
Chief Technology Officer: Udi Zelig
Money Raised: $4 million
Founded: 2010
We have all heard the buzzwords being thrown around in the tech world. Phrases like artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and many others. The advancements we have made are truly astounding, but it begs the question, if we have all this advanced tech, why aren’t we applying it where we need it most, in healthcare? The answer is, we are, but not enough.
Todos Medical is using AI to help detect a variety of cancers and other conditions, such as Alzheimer’s, early enough to increase the effectiveness of the treatment significantly. How many times have you heard about someone who was diagnosed early enough to have beaten the cancer, or tragically, the opposite and it was so late that the cancer spread uncontrollably – it was too late to act.
Now, in addition to the challenge of early detection of cancer, there are also other massive challenges facing the world of oncology. Using breast cancer as an example, current diagnostic tools have many worrisome characteristics, including false positive mammograms, unnecessary biopsies and difficult detection due to dense breast tissue.
Another basic and profound issue facing cancer diagnostics is patient compliance. Among patients recommended for colonoscopies, nearly 50% of tests ordered are not actually conducted due to the uncomfortable nature of the procedure, which also applies to stool tests. Imagine, if you will, the benefits society would be afforded if colon cancer screens were increased by 100%!
Stepping away from the cancer world, when it comes to another horrible disease, Alzheimer’s, there is still no effective early detection of the disease. With all the technology of the 21st century, there has yet to be a drug approved to treat Alzheimer’s, primarily because of the costs associated with clinical trials and patient recruitment, as well as recruiting patients too late in their disease progression.
TODOS IS attempting to address all of these challenges and more. So how does it work?
The immune-oncology space has clearly identified the fact that different cancers interact differently with the host’s immune system. Working with complex algorithms which are aided by artificial intelligence, the company is able to identify the unique fingerprint of cancers at an early stage.
Utilizing “Immune-diagnostics” via simple blood tests, Todos is able to detect the cancer’s “immune fingerprint” at its early stage, helping physicians identify the appropriate patients to do further tests for cancer and eventually treat it, at a much more curable stage, which will help more patients live cancer free.
Todos’s tech (TBIA), licensed and developed out of Ben-Gurion University, is a simple blood test for cancer detection. The blood is separated into two components – immune cells and plasma and then is measured by infra-red spectroscopy for total biochemical analysis of both components. The TBIA concept is – instead of observing specific proteins or other components released from the tumor, when the cancer is more advanced – looking at the entire biochemical composition of the immune system and the plasma and learning the characteristic features related to cancer patients in comparison to healthy the population, and can tell what is worrisome and what is not.
Todos recently formed a joint venture with Amarantus Biosciences called Breakthrough Diagnostics, concentrating on diagnosing neurodegenerative diseases while focusing on the body’s immune system as well. Advanced studies have shown that defects in the body’s immune system is implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases such as Chronic Traumatic Encephalitis.
The cancer detection test is CE-mark approved, which means it is able to be commercialized in Europe, and to that end, Todos recently signed a distribution agreement with Orot+, a company that services cancer treatment and diagnostic centers in a couple of European countries.
The next step that the team is working on, is getting regulatory approval in Israel to start commercializing the test locally. The company is poised to have a breakout year in 2019 as they commercialize their assets and help bring meaningful innovation to the world.
SO HOW did this all start?
Doing work in the lab for his doctorate, Dr. Zelig (as part of a research team), using the Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy (FTIR), saw he was able to predict which patients were not going to do well based on the immune systems response to chemotherapy, and sure enough, he was able to tell which patients would need to change their chemo regimen because the cancer was continuing to progress.
It took a little Israeli ingenuity for what happened next. Dr. Zelig and Rami Zigdon figured that if they are able to follow cancer after diagnosis, why can’t they find it before any signs of cancer are noticeable and really be a method for early detection? Todos Medical was founded to explore this innovative idea.
Using the FTIR, they found that based on early signals from the immune system, the cancers were detectable far sooner than routine screening methodology, and with higher sensitivity and specificity. They also found that each cancer had a unique pattern.
One of the early investors in the company shared a story about his wife experiencing a false positive mammogram and how she was sent to the hospital for a biopsy. She ended up being admitted for three weeks because the biopsy site became infected and she needed IV antibiotics. For 30-40% of patients, mammograms are not helpful because of dense breast tissue, and they require additional testing like ultrasounds and MRIs. These patients are the ones who will benefit the most from Todos’s breakthrough technology.
Finally, there are no approved drugs for Alzheimer’s and utilizing their technology, Todos’s test will cut patient recruitment costs by 85% allowing drug companies to recruit patients faster and, more importantly, earlier in the disease progression.
In other words, what you have here is a company leveraging AI to make the world a better place, treat cancer and diagnose Alzheimer’s patients with significantly higher success, and it does all that while offering all the different parts of the equation a classic win-win situation.