This is a guest post written by Sophia Lin, Social Media Communications Specialist at Cisco.
About 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime. One businessman is betting technology can drastically bring down those numbers. Rob Royea has 20 plus years of experience in clinical based diagnosis for conditions including cancer under his belt. He knew it was time to change the focus from breast cancer diagnosis to early detection. His weapon- an extraordinary wearable called the iTBra, which can detect cancer at its earliest possible stages. The story, is the focus of a powerful new documentary short called Detected. Cisco funded the film, which just debuted at the Boston Independent Film Festival in April, and will screen at Ahrya Fine Arts by Laemmle in Beverly Hills on June 5th.
I talked to Royea about the technology, and his journey to get the bra to market.
Sophia Lin: What is the iTBra? How does it work?
Rob Royea: The iTBra is a wearable device that is worn under a woman’s garments that can detect the earliest signs of invasive cancer. Sensors that sit on the body under a women’s own garment can sense metabolic change over time through thermodynamic assessment. The data collected by the sensors are then transmitted to a core lab where we use artificial intelligence or predictive analytics in the cloud to determine the results. The results are then sent back to the patients or to the physician and the insurance company. Patients can easily read the results that basically tell them “you’re fine” or “call your doctor.”
SL: What led you to the iTBra?
RR: The concept of the iTBra was well originated before I was involved. The board of directors of the company was looking for a CEO who could determine how to develop a scalable the technology that wasn’t yet scalable and while ensuring accuracy of screening for the mass population. What I really saw in the technology, was the ability to get it out to the mass population but more importantly be able to get early in the diagnosis. When it comes to screening and monitoring, the ability to find cancers earlier is all about saving lives.
SL: How will the iTBra affect breast cancer awareness?
RR: Women really want to know about their breast health. It’s not about a cancer alarm but self-awareness. Women want know they are actually leading a healthy life. The reassurance and the calm that comes to them is what we’re looking to supply through the iTBra. It’s changing from a monthly screening that you’re suggested to do, to now actually having a smart technology that can reassure you that your breast health is fine. We want to provide encouragement of getting screened through a social context. It’ll encourage sisters, families and friends to screen.
SL: Can you give us an update on what stage the bra is in now?
RR: We’ve gone through a US clinical trial where we’ve been able to drop the wear time from 48 hours to two hours and increase the accuracy from 74.5% to over 80%. At the end of this year, we plan on releasing a commercial product in Asia that will allow people to pair the iTBra with a smart phone app for results. In the US, we have an FDA Class 2 clearance and working toward a FDA Class 1 clearance which would enable over the counter product delivery.
SL: How do you think IoT wearables will transform the healthcare industry?
RR: It’s a radical shift in time of diagnosis. It goes from being hospital or clinic based to population health. We now have the ability to monitor women as they go about their daily activities, rather than waiting from 8-10 years for a tumor to finally be visible on a mammography or ultrasound. It’s going to be a radical shift in the paradigm of location and timing of diagnosis.
SL: What was it like having a camera crew following you around for the filming of Detected?
RR: It was crazy! There were cameras all around all the time. What was great, was that women would walk up and tell you exactly what they felt. They wanted to talk about breast health. We got a great deal of input from women as to how we should deliver the product and what it should do for women in the process.
SL: What was your favorite part of filming?
RR: Being able to tell the story for the first time about a fitness device migrating to a wellness technology. We’re looking at something that’s a sustainable healthcare product that someone could wear beyond breast cancer. There’s the possibility that someone will monitor themselves in the future almost as second nature.
SL: What is the one you thing you want people to take away after watching the documentary?
RR: Technology is evolving to the point that we can wear sensors and to know more about our ongoing health condition. More importantly, welcome health monitoring through intelligent technologies. Having a sensor on you doesn’t mean that you’re monitoring for bad habits, monitoring can save your life! Think about the future of healthcare wearables and understand why it’s important for better outcomes and better family time.
National Cancer Survivors Day is on June 4th. Follow the conversation at Detected Movie and #DetectedMovie.