Overcoming Disease Starts With Diagnosing Symptoms Before They’re Present

By Kevin Hrusovsky, CEO And Executive Chairman At Quanterix

It’s time we truly take control of a disease that’s killing 1,500 Americans every single day. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in developed nations and one of the most feared in the United States. That’s why you may be surprised to hear that half of the Americans we surveyed told us that they don’t consider it likely that they will die of cancer – even though the disease is becoming more prevalent and common in all ages and genders.

The ability to detect and accurately measure disease risk is becoming increasingly important as external lifestyle factors influence disease development, particularly cancer. Some leading oncology researchers believe that up to 95 percent of cases are rooted in environment or lifestyle factors, like diet, smoking, physical exercise and more. While most Americans claim that they would be willing to quit a bad habit, the truth is eliminating a habit is harder than it seems. In fact, a “60 Minutes/Vanity Fair” survey of the American public determined that 41 percent of us would need to have a “near death experience” before actually kicking a habit for good.

Dietary habits are becoming an alarming influence on phenotypes and the development of cancer. For example, one of the most alarming epidemics a majority of Americans face is their addiction to refined sugars and processed foods which is also the leading cause of obesity. The National Institute of Health found that two out of every three Americans are overweight or obese – a staggering statistic that will likely grow as more than one-third of U.S. children are also overweight or obese. Although 20 percent of Americans say they’d be willing to reduce or eliminate their intake of sugars, the reality is that these harmful ingredients have become engrained in American’s daily habits. Would you believe that 44 percent of Americans would continue to eat unhealthy foods if they knew it would have no significant repercussions on their health? Furthermore, 38 percent admit that, even if they publicly eliminated the intake of unhealthy food, they would indulge themselves “in secret,” indicating just how engrained these bad eating habits are.

So what would happen if we could actually eliminate these unhealthy, and cancer causing habits? Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard discovered that 20 to 40 percent of cancer cases and about half of cancer deaths could potentially be prevented if we could follow and maintain healthy lifestyle and dietary habits. This conclusive evidence should be more than enough to encourage Americans to think critically about all of their habits, not just dietary.

Because of this, and other factors, we believe that baseline measurements of a person’s health when they are first born is critical to improving the life and longevity of the population. Having empirical data and results to show how one’s habits and environment are influencing their long-term health risks is knowledge that will truly transform the way the population views today’s sick care into true, preventative healthcare. We all have informative protein biomarkers in our blood that can provide physicians or researchers with a window into what is currently going on in our body. The catch? They’re incredibly difficult to detect with today’s technology. This is why we’re laser-focused on bringing our highly sensitive technology, Simoa, to market. With its unique capabilities to detect and quantify critical proteins through a simple blood test, we feel as though Simoa could be at the center of future cancer – and other diseases – research innovations.

With the ability to detect and treat cancer before symptoms arise, protein biomarkers can extend life expectancy nationwide. This comes at a time when life expectancy is actually trending downwards – in part because of the influences of “deaths by despair,” which are fatal factors, including: drugs, alcohol, suicide and disease. As these deaths become more frequent, they are cutting life expectancy by half a year on average.

Genetics and blood-based biomarker testing are quickly becoming part of the everyday vernacular and someday, will become part of a routine physical. There’s already encouraging signs that indicate Americans are ready to embrace the trend of personalized medicine. In fact, 50 percent of the Americans we surveyed told us that they would let their doctors test and analyze their blood if they knew it would help inform them of their potential risk of developing cancer. Further, 53 percent of Americans say they’re already aware of this type of impactful biotechnology, suggesting that market readiness is already taking shape. With one-third of the population saying they would pay more than $10,000 out-of-pocket for this type of test, it suggests that there is a real opportunity for innovators and leaders to seize this critical opportunity.

It’s time to eradicate the belief that cancer and other illnesses, like diabetes, Alzheimer’s and heart disease are death sentences. Rather, the prevalent nature of these illnesses in all ages and across demographics suggests that we’re all living in a sick state. In today’s world of medicine, we’re waiting until late stage symptoms present themselves before we can prescribe treatment. We believe in a medical state where physicians will be able to detect disease before symptoms arise and tailor treatment for each patient per blood-based protein indicators that will make care more precise and, thus, impactful. We know this is the future of medicine and we’re excited to be leading efforts to help achieve that goal.