This article was originally posted on June 25, following the European Parliament’s vote to set up the Special Committee on beating cancer. It has been modified and published again on February 4, following the publication of Europe’s Beating Cancer plan.
Cancer is the second most common cause of death worldwide. According to the WHO, cancer is responsible for the loss of an estimated 10 million lives every year. Europe has a 25% share of the global cancer burden, with nearly 4 million new cases of cancer registered every year. It is a public health concern affecting every country and society in the world.
This week, on the eve of World Cancer Day, the European Commission has presented its Europe’s Beating Cancer plan, which aims to prioritize digitalization, research and innovation. The initiatives include the creation of the Cancer Patient Digital Centre to support the voluntary exchange of patients’ data, a new Knowledge Centre to coordinate scientific initiatives and Cancer Imaging Initiative to help train AI-powered diagnostic tools.
At Allied for Startups, we witness startups developing cutting-edge technology, including AI, to design solutions that save lives and support health care systems. Therefore, we believe it’s important that any new legislation is understandable and implementable for startups, such as those fighting cancer.
We are showcasing 5 examples of startups that are tackling cancer and empowering patients:
How to treat the untreatable?
Captor Therapeutics is a Swiss-Polish biotech startup seeking to transform the lives of patients suffering from cancer and autoimmune diseases, which have limited treatment options. The startup addresses the problem known as ‘undruggable proteome’, which refers to proteins that cannot be targeted with traditional drugs. The startup’s technology consists of bifunctional molecules, direct degraders and molecular glues capable of targeted protein degradation. Based on this technology, Captor Therapeutics is building its own drug development pipeline.
How to provide the best weapons to fight cancer?
OncoDNA, a health tech startup based in Belgium, is developing precision medicine solutions to analyse tumours right down to the finest detail. The startup combines the most relevant molecular technologies, bioinformatics tools and AI to support oncologists in cancer diagnostics and therapeutic decision-making processes. The solutions include diagnostics tests covering multiple tumour biomarkers, a comprehensive database of gene variants, drugs and clinical trials, and a digital platform combining testing and patient data collection. The startup also collaborates with biopharma companies to assist with clinical trials.
Did you know that 1 of 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime? Breast cancer screenings reduce mortality by 25%.
Vara, a Berlin-based startup, aims to save lives by making these screenings widely accessible. Startup’s AI-powered screening platform for radiologists reduces repetitive work by ruling out normal exams with a very high level of confidence, allowing doctors to focus on potentially suspicious exams. Vara’s machine models are trained on one of the largest breast cancer datasets of 2.5 million images to ensure accuracy.
Earlier this month, Vara raised €6.5 million in a Series A funding round and plans to use these funds for further European expansion and preparation to enter the U.S. market.
It’s estimated that 70% of the medication is taken incorrectly. Even a slight improvement can have a significant impact.
VineHealth, a British startup founded by a doctor, seeks to improve the quality of life and survival of cancer patients through a combination of behavioural science and AI. The startup’s digital platform enables users to easily log, track and review their symptoms and side effects. The app facilitates communication between patients and clinicians through patient-reported data. Other features, such as reminders about medications, appointments and lifestyle management advice also supports people with cancer in their daily life. While empowering patients, Vinehealth also gathers patient data that is crucial to the development of life-saving drugs.
Coping with cancer-related fatigue (CRF)
The Dutch startup Tired of Cancer helps cancer patients cope with extreme fatigue. Startup’s mobile app Untire was developed by psychologists, patients and researchers. It provides tools to reduce cancer-related fatigue and get back to living. The app enables users to measure their energy, guides on physical exercises and gives daily tips on reducing stress and improving mood. The themes also include sleep, anxiety, setting limits and nutrition. The app is based on decades of research on cancer-related fatigue and also conducts scientific studies to measure the effectiveness of their app.
Recent developments in research and innovation have led to many new ways of treating cancer, transforming care and supporting cancer patients. Many innovative startups are stepping up to develop life-saving solutions through the adoption and development of cutting-edge technology, such as AI.
We encourage the policy makers to tap into the potential of startup innovation and provide clear pathways for digital health startups to contribute to Europe’s fight against cancer.