At Innovative Technology Enterprises at UMSL (University of Missouri – St. Louis), we have created an environment that fosters the growth of a variety of companies, large and small. These companies, though, are more than just their products or services. This series of articles seeks to illuminate some of the people that make our tenant companies great, and answer the question: what is going on inside ITE?
Dr. Bob Puskas opened our interview right away with quite the declarative. “Really, our testing for cancers, screening, is not very good. We test for four or five significant cancers. And there are significant flaws in all of those screenings. And then the rest of the cancers, the other bottom half, still significant, we don’t do any testing. So the way you find out you have it is you have the symptom. You’ve got it, and it’s often late. That’s not the way we want it.”
Essentially, what we’re doing right now either isn’t working, or it isn’t enough.
Bob is one of the driving forces behind Traxxsson, a company housed at ITE developing early detection blood tests for a variety of solid tumor cancers. In our interview, he was quite clear. Detection is the problem, and Traxxsson has set out to fix it. The idea here is to create tests to be conducted within the earliest stages of surveillance (even detecting cancer as early as stage I) and ideally, in the near future, routine tests before cancer is even suspected or health is at risk. Traxxsson has developed a blood test they call CancSure: a blood test that recognizes the unique protein signatures, patterns of biomarkers, of a particular cancer. As it turns out, all varieties of cancerous tumors throw off specific proteins into the blood. Currently, Traxxsson can discriminate between nine different cancers, and has developed specific tests for three of the most common: breast, prostate, and lung.
To paraphrase Bob, if a woman receives a mammogram and a mass is discovered, Traxxsson’s BRE CancSure test can then be conducted to hopefully rule out the possibility of cancer before months of expensive testing. “Rule out” is the critical phrase here. CancSure does not guarantee that someone has cancer, but it can rule out the possibility with a high degree of confidence. Not only will this save money (for the patient and the physician both), but perhaps more importantly it saves the patient the stress of waiting months at a time for results and follow up testing. Traxxsson’s tests take only twenty-four hours.
Breast cancer is not the only target, though. Traxxsson is also developing their PRO CancSure variant to test for prostate cancer. In the case of prostate cancer, this gives us a better understanding of progression. Bob explained how, contrary to popular understanding, not every cancer diagnosis requires treatment, and this is especially true for cancer of the prostate.
“People fear cancer because of the reputation that most of the other cancers have. But the mortality for prostate cancer is somewhere between one and two percent. It’s not high and it’s a slow progressing cancer. The move now is to do surveillance.”
In fact, it is often the case that the side effects associated with treatment are worse than the cancer itself. Better, less invasive surveillance allows us to more effectively determine the need for more exploratory measures or even treatment.
Traxxsson’s long term goal is to develop a single, inexpensive test that can be done routinely to identify the most prevalent human cancers. This could be done during a physical, a routine doctors visit, or even in the ER. These are the sort of medical advances to really get excited about.
To learn more, visit Traxxsson at http://www.traxxsson.com/
Kevin Gleich is a graduate student in the University of Missouri – St. Louis’ Master of Fine Arts writing program. He produces content and manages communications for Innovative Technology Enterprises.
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