• Date: October 01, 2019

Endometrial cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, and the most common occurring in the uterus. If diagnosed early, this illness has high survival rates, but endometrial cancer is still among the top 10 deadliest cancers in women. Its early signs—such as abnormal vaginal bleeding—are often ambiguous, meaning that a great number of women need to undergo a multi-step diagnostic process, including invasive testing.

CEMARK, one of the projects selected in CaixaImpulse in 2016, is a VHIR-born effort to address this issue. To find out more, we caught up with project leader Eva Colás, who was also recently an invited expert at the “la Caixa”-organised event “Women and Innovation: Leading Success in the Health Sector”. In our interview, she explains the potential implications and applications of the CEMARK diagnostic kit, and post-CaixaImpulse developments.

Eva Colás (centre) and the CEMARK team

What is the objective of your project, CEMARK? How will it change/improve the diagnosis of endometrial cancer?

There are currently available means of diagnosing endometrial cancer in a minimally invasive way. However, 22% of the time, this procedure fails to provide conclusive results, and in 50% of cases, it fails to accurately determine the histological type and grade of the tumor. This means that women have to undergo subsequent invasive tests, even if they don’t have the disease. Our project, CEMARK, aims to provide an accurate and complete diagnosis to all patients using minimally invasive means. To do this, CEMARK is an in vitro diagnostic (IVD) product that assesses protein biomarkers in the fluid contained in the uterine cavity.

What will this mean for patient care?

Patients, clinicians, and the health system will all benefit if CEMARK is implemented into patient care. All patients will receive a diagnosis during their first consultancy, without waiting times, without the need for invasive samplings, and thus, without the chance of having complications and discomfort. Moreover, diagnosis will be accurate, and this is crucial in order to guide the optimal surgical treatment, which is directly associated with life expectancy.

Why is early diagnosis important?

Early diagnosis in endometrial cancer correlates directly to patient's survival. Today, patients diagnosed early with a tumour localized in the uterine cavity have a 95% of probability of still being alive 5 years after diagnosis.

Likewise, why is it important to avoid overdiagnosis?

Overdiagnosis is associated with discomfort and complications for patients. From an economical perspective, it also implies great sanitary costs.

Your diagnostic kit is based on protein biomarkers for endometrial cancer. Could the same methods be used in future to identify other cancers?

The same type of sample might be useful to identify other cancers or pathologies derived from the female genital tract. Furthermore, we aim to obtain additional biomarkers to identify other causes of abnormal vaginal bleeding, such as complex atypical hyperplasia. There is still further research that needs to be done on these topics.

You took part in CaixaImpulse in 2016. How did this experience help your project develop?

I am confident to say that it was crucial for the development of our project. CaixaImpulse provides skills and knowledge for scientific entrepreneurs to become entrepreneurs. It allowed us to have a clear view on the path to the market for our asset, and linked us with professionals.

What has the journey been like from then until now?

Exciting. Basically, we have been working hard from then on, and not just combining our scientific activities, but also including managerial and strategic actions. We have participated in other programs for entrepreneurs, done valorization activities, and more.

What's in store for the future? How far is this technology from being clinically available?

We are developing our prototype and expecting to have it by 2021. Then, we will perform a clinical validation, obtain the CE Mark, and finally, license the product to an IVD company so that they can bring CEMARK to the market by 2024.

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If you think that one of these programmes could be for you, visit the programme page to get all details you need to apply.