Israelis develop first blood test for breast cancer

Octava Pink, a groundbreaking achievement in cancer detection, follows eight years of research at EventusDx in Jerusalem.

After eight years of painstaking research, Israeli life-sciences company Eventus Diagnostics (EventusDx) has produced a blood test for the early detection of breast cancer.

The Octava Pink test is now available in Israel and Italy, and is undergoing clinical trials to receive US Food and Drug Administration approval.

This is the first blood test ever that can reveal cancer, not merely markers that might indicate cancer or something else. Its innovation also lies in its examination of antibodies in the blood to pinpoint this specific cancer.

Molecular biologist Galit Yahalom — who heads the research team at the EventusDx offices and lab, located in Moshav Ora outside of Jerusalem – explains the breakthrough to ISRAEL21c.

“For the last decade, we have known that there is a connection between cancer and the immune system,” says Yahalom, a 43-year-old mother of two from Modi’in who has been working on this project since its inception.

“We know that it recognizes cancer as an external enemy that must be destroyed. It is possible that each of us has had instances of cancer we were unaware of, because our immune systems killed it when it was still very small. For whatever reason, the immune system of people with cancer is not functioning properly.”

Molecular biologist Galit Yahalom at EventusDx.

Molecular biologist Galit Yahalom at EventusDx.

It was from this angle that Yahalom’s 15-strong team of biologists (and a computer expert) attempted to tackle the problem. After collecting data from hundreds of healthy women and as many diagnosed with breast cancer, Yahalom’s team looked for the proteins of the immune system responsible for detecting both. They also examined immune-system activity in women with ovarian cancer and men and women with intestinal cancer, to see the distinction from those with breast cancer.

Yahalom says that comparing the panels of elements characteristic of the women with breast cancer to those of healthy women created “pictures” of each group.

“Imagine that one is a picture of a flower and the other of a heart,” she says. “Yours might be a flower with four petals instead of five, and another woman’s might be a heart with a bulge, but you both fall into one of the two categories.”

These categories are arrived at through a mathematical algorithm developed by EventusDx, a private company funded by American investors. The precision of the algorithm is high, with only a five percent margin of error.

“And even this small amount might not actually constitute error,” says Yahalom, “but rather the possibility that someone’s immune system detected a cancer that is either no longer there — because antibodies destroyed it — or that has not erupted yet.”

Detecting cancer quickly

Since the release of Octava Pink in Israel in September, Yahalom’s lab has performed 400 such blood tests.

The test is already available in Israel and Italy.

The test is already available in Israel and Italy.

Another innovation is the nanotechnology developed at EventusDx, which enables testing 96 blood samples simultaneously. This process takes no more than three hours, allowing a woman’s doctor to rule out or confirm breast cancer very quickly.

Speed, of course, is as important in breast-cancer detection as accuracy – not only for those whose results confirm their physicians’ suspicions or diagnoses of breast cancer, but also for those found to be cancer-free.

This is because false positives and false negatives are frequent. According to Yahalom, “Only 20 to 30 of every 100 biopsies performed as a result of growths detected in mammograms reveal cancer; the rest are benign. Meanwhile, 50% of young women with breast cancer, and 30% of older women with breast cancer, are diagnosed as healthy.”

The Octava Pink test has had astounding results, correctly diagnosing 95% of the healthy women and 75% of those with breast cancer.

Though one in nine women will contract breast cancer at some point in their lifetime, only three in 1,000 have it at any given moment. This is why it is important for women to get regular checkups and to be provided this extra tool to assuage their fears.

This particular tool costs NIS 700 (about $200), not including the fee charged by the doctor who purchases the Octava kit and sends it to Yahalom’s lab.

The product’s name was chosen in reference to a metaphor used to describe the immune system: “A song sung in a low octave or a high one is still the same song,” says Yahalom. “But if one or more of the notes is off key, it is a different song. The same goes for the immune system. One person’s may work slowly and another person’s may work quickly; what we detect are the off notes.”

Her team is now working to improve the test, while exploring other cancers to target in the future.

For more information, see www.eventusdx.com

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About Ruthie Blum

Ruthie Blum, a former editor at The Jerusalem Post, is a columnist for Israel Hayom and the author of "To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the 'Arab Spring.'"
  • Hard Little Machine

    Please spread the word to all US universities so they can scream about boycotting it.

    • danaellen

      You make a brilliant point!

    • H Shamir

      Please spread the word across the whole planet and encourage every anti-Israeli and anti-Semite to boycott this and every other advance in medicine and technology sourced in Israel. Please !!!

  • http://www.mdphotography.co.za Nadia Davies

    I think this is amazing. It will be great if this test can be conducted all over the world. Hope it will go to other countries very soon, so that all women can benefit from this. Well done!!

    • WorcesterMaNative

      Men, too, get breast cancer. 1% of all B.C. is in men.

  • Nikhil Autar

    Pretty damn cool innovation. I will definitely be looking into it. Hope the clinical trials go well! Though at 200 dollars a test at the moment (+ whatever the doctor/labs will end up charging) – it may be a little expensive to use a screening measure – though this may change with further testing/enhancing of the methodology and with upscaling of the whole process.

    The data on the effectiveness of breast cancer screening, especially in younger women is disturbing though. As many as 40% of women with denser breasts (usually younger women) won’t actually have their cancer detected. There’s a new innovation by Deborah Rhodes which is hopefully gonna chnage that though – I talk about it in here. But who knows – this blood test may be a great way of possibly screening or even diagnosing in the future!

    http://nikhilthegrizzlybear.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/how-to-improve-innovation-how-recent.html

    • shloime

      how much does a mammogram cost? and if the numbers presented here actually pan out for the general population, don’t ya think this is cheaper than the unnecessary biopsies for 75% of the lumps detected by mammography?

  • Kathy

    wondering … while your article (and test) specifically indicate breast cancer … markers … does it detect markers for cancer located in other areas, lymph nodes, lung, etc? I am so a proponent of the immune system going haywire, just can’t seem to convince anyone else. I am just a patient that keeps pushing for genome testing and being refused…. Thanks

  • jbarouch32

    Yeh! One of the chief researchers is from Modiin, where I lived for 5 years!

  • jacoo

    Excellent Job! Bless You!

  • Spicy Nugget

    this accomplishment is amazing given the unstable climate with attackers on every side. imagine how much more could be accomplished if scientists were not distracted by the social and moral failures of their neighbors pointing rockets.

  • danaellen

    Oh yeah like Obamacare is going to implement this blood test in a timely manner. Cancer grows faster than the long wait wait lines and such state of the art will be enjoyed only by the elite in Washington. There is your hope and change you liberal morons. If you like your candy striper then you can keep her.

    I think of moving to Israel to escape 8 years of Hillary. This blood test is the tip of the iceberg on Israeli brilliant technological advances!

    • greegreedog

      I can’t believe you would behave like a troll with a news item such as this. For Shame! Didn’t your mother teach you any manners.

    • WorcesterMaNative

      Blame your health insurance company if it’s not covered, not the ACA, which is NOT some Faux Noise “ObamaCare”. Plus, if you read the article, you’ll see that it said that it “is undergoing clinical trials to receive US Food and Drug Administration approval.” It’s time to stop letting the CEOs of health INSURANCE businesses reap profit at extortionist rates, taking money form health CARE.

  • Diane Eidelman

    This looks to be a major step in breast cancer diagnosis

  • Ginas

    Thank God for these brilliant minds put to GOOD use. I don’t care what anyone’s race or nationality is. I am a grateful breast cancer survivor thanks to my wonderful doctors here in the USA. We need more people who use the gifts they are given for the common good. “Much is required of whom much has been given” . So sick of brilliant minds (hackers, bombers, etc.) who wreak havoc on others. Shame on them since we all now have to live looking back over our shoulders!

  • slavy

    BDS is probably claiming Israeli scientists stole this

  • slavy

    I have actually see this first as a post by one of my pro palestinian friends calling to boycut it.
    I have lost all my respect to that friend. How much of a mindless chimp can a person be. They are so filled with hate that they would rather let millions die from cancer young than let Israel exist.
    THANK YOU ISRAEL! For yet another step in evolving man kind.

    • shloime

      the irony of the boycottists is that although they *claim* that they are doing it to help the palestinians, or to promote peace, but that’s a lie.

      when it turns out that their boycotts do nothing, or even actually hurt the palestinians (as in the case of sodastream, which employs hundreds of arab employees from the territories, at israeli rates of pay and benefits), they refuse to give up on the idea of attacking israel.

      because that’s what they’re really after.

  • Judge Jury

    Let them have Allah we’ll take science.