An Indian startup develops a handheld device for detecting oral cancer

Detection of oral cancer, one of the most common cancers in India, may become easy and affordable with an Indian biomedical startup coming up with a handheld imaging device that can screen and detect tumours in the mouth very early stages.

OralScan, designed and developed by Sascan Meditech, a startup incubated at TiMED, a technology business incubator of the Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Science and Technology (SCTIMST) in Thiruvananthapuram, would be officially launched by Kerala Health Minister K K Shailaja on Wednesday.

OralScan has already undergone multi-centre trials covering six hospitals in the country, and the technology has already received an Indian patent, and a US patent is pending, a statement said on Tuesday.

OralScan was conceived and developed with seed funding from the National Initiative for Developing and Harnessing Innovations (NIDHI) scheme of the Department of Science & Technology (DST), Govt of India and was further supported by the Department of Biotechnology and Kerala Start Up Mission. The company recently received investment from Unicorn India Ventures.

According to Subhash Narayanan, CEO of Sascan, oral cancer is a growing concern in India with more than 80,000 new cases reported each year. The disease has a high mortality rate because of the delay in detection. Current practice relies on oral examinations using torchlight to detect early-stage cancers of the oral cavity.

Various studies have demonstrated that this screening technique is not very reliable and often potentially malignant oral lesions go undetected in the early stages. Even experienced clinicians find it challenging to locate the optimal site for a biopsy based on conventional oral examination. This leads to multiple biopsies, increased expenditure and false-negative reports which can delay diagnosis and outcome, he said.

OralScanon the other hand, not only screens and detects oral lesions, but also assists the surgeon in taking a biopsy from the most appropriate site which is likely to confirm the diagnosis of malignancy. This will avoid multiple biopsies and false negative reports, he added.

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