The Blue Box is a device that seeks to face one of the great challenges in the fight against breast cancer: facilitate early detection. It consists of a painless test, free of radiation and that can give immediate results, thus saving long waiting lists and complementing (never replacing) the detection and treatment tasks of the health systems.

The project, behind which is the biomedical engineer Judit Giró, is still under development and optimization, but is expected to be released in 2023.

The importance of early detection

Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in Spanish women, according to the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology. It is estimated that, in our country, one in eight women You will develop this disease at some point in your life. And, although mortality has decreased in recent years thanks to screening programs, on the one hand, and improved treatments, on the other, it is still the leading cause of cancer death among women.

Detecting the disease in an early stage is essential to cope with it. Currently, and according to the observatory of the Spanish Society against Cancer (AECC), mammography it is the most effective screening test. However, it is an expensive and complex procedure, which prevents massive and rapid testing.

To meet this challenge, biomedical engineering specialists investigate what role can technology play in making screening tests more accessible. And, as a result of these investigations, The Blue Box was born, a device that combines a system of sensors and artificial intelligence to warn of possible cases of breast cancer from an early stage.

A simple and quick test

One of the main characteristics of The Blue Box is its ease of use: women (or men, since, although they account for less than 1% of cases, they can also suffer from the disease) who use it should introduce a urine sample on the device. Less than a minute later, they will have a result on their mobile phones through The Blue App.

Inside the box, six chemical sensors react to compounds in urine and are capable of detecting biomarkers of breast cancer. That is, substances that indicate the presence of some type of cancer in the body. The box then sends a signal to the mobile app via Bluetooth. Once this is done, an algorithm based on artificial intelligence classifies the sample and issues, in about 30 seconds, a result.

Currently, The Blue Box team is training this artificial intelligence with urine samples from patients with the disease from hospitals collaborating with the investigation. Once the product is marketed, the team waits create a community of women that use it and whose results serve to continue training artificial intelligence.

For this to happen, the product still needs to be perfected. The latest prototype has reached 95% reliability, but it is necessary guarantee similar figures in cases of cancer in early stages. Once these objectives have been achieved, the device must be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and various European Union bodies before being released on the market. It is expected to be commercialized in 2023.

Quick, inexpensive and painless

Behind The Blue Box is Judit Giró, a biomedical engineer from Barcelona. After studying Biomedical Engineering in this city, she completed a master’s degree at the University of California at Irvine to better understand the power of technology and new computer techniques to deal with diseases such as breast cancer. Currently, he works at the North American university and in a start-up created with his partner Billy Chen to shape The Blue Box.

Last year, the initiative won The James Dyson Award 2020. Behind this recognition are the characteristics that make the project unique: firstly, it is painless. According to The Blue Box, 41% of women who avoid having a mammogram do so to avoid pain.

Second, and unlike mammograms, it does not involve radiation. On the other hand, there is the cost: making a blue box is 10 times cheaper than to perform a mammogram. It is estimated that it can cost about $ 80 to produce for marketing.

It also comes into play that the test can be done from home and that the result reaches the mobile phone screen in a few seconds. However, it is important to note that the use of this device, like many other technological solutions, should never replace the role of a doctor, but rather complement it.

Imágenes | James Dyson Award, The Blue Box

Tags: Science and TechnologyHealth and Technology

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