To diagnose cancer, doctors use a bunch of complex examinations like an MRI, a CT scan, a biopsy or a lengthy blood test. Because of the sophisticated machines and equipment needed for these techniques and procedures, they are only conducted at the hospital setting. One startup is about to change this with its portable cancer-detecting device.

Korea Herald featured local medtech startup BBB Monday and shed light about the budding company’s diagnostic device that is designed to examine blood and detect cancer markers. BBB is making this device portable, so consumers could use them on their own and within the confines of their home. 

The device, named MarkB, is equipped with sensors that examine a droplet of blood and look for the presence of cancer signals. Once the process is done, the device presents the result to the user and records a copy of it for safekeeping. Data generated from tests are then forwarded to doctors for monitoring. 

However, BBB is not positioning the portable device as a diagnostic tool. The startup is instead grooming the device to be a prognostic tool. This means MarkB will be intended for use by post-surgery cancer patients who need frequent checkups every three to six months. 

Only after the device has accumulated positive use cases will BBB work to reposition the product as a portable cancer prevention tool for anyone who wants to get tested at home. “With good references, we want to be able to position the device as a cancer prevention tool for use by any interested individual,” BBB founder and CE Choi Jae-kyu told Korea Herald in an interview. 

MarkB is easy to use. It works just like random blood sugar kits. The user simply needs to prick a fingertip with a needle and dab the blood onto a testing strip. The device needs only 30 microliters of blood to perform the blood test that makes use of two techniques: one separates out plasma from the red blood cells and the second one separates out cancer-derived proteins with electromagnetic waves. 

The density of the cancer cell-derived proteins is then identified by the device, and this part helps doctors determine if the cancer cells present in the body of the patient is growing or shrinking. Choi said MarkB’s ability to identify the density of the proteins is very accurate. 

“Our device automatically separates out the plasma and captures just the desired proteins. And all of this is controlled via our biosensor. The key is that we’ve managed to miniaturize and automate procedures previously carried out by large, heavy equipment, without compromising accuracy,” the CEO said. 

At present, BBB’s device is capable of screening five common cancers, namely: colorectal cancer, liver cancer, prostate cancer, uterine and ovarian cancer and cancer of digestive organs like pancreas and gallbladder. The startup is hoping to expand the list in the future. 

MarkB is reportedly hitting the Korean market by the end of 2018. BBB is also hoping to bring its device to other markets in the long run. The company is currently working to have MarkB documents and clinical trial data approved by U.S. and European medical device regulators.