Using worms to detect cancer in dogs: Oncotect launches high-tech screening kit for pet owners

October 4, 2023


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Sadly, cancer is the leading cause of death among dogs, with a staggering six to 10 million new diagnoses each year. While one in three dogs will develop cancer in their lifetime, diagnosis doesn’t have to mean death, however.

The key to fighting cancer and extending the lives of our pets lies in early detection.

Oncotect, a biotech startup from North Carolina, this week launched a pioneering early cancer screening kit for dogs, for use by veterinary care teams and pet parents alike.

This is the first product of its kind to be available online for pet parents at home for an affordable price and without the need for any invasive procedures.

The new testing kit helps work around a number of hurdles in traditional cancer screenings for pets, according to the company. Current testing methods, such as biopsies, ultrasounds, and X-rays, while effective at diagnosis, are often prohibitively expensive or impractical for early screening. Additionally, blood tests require a hospital visit, creating a barrier to timely testing.

Oncotect’s testing kit lowers the barrier of who can test pets, being specially made for veterinarians and everyday pet parents alike. It’s also set at a relatively affordable price of under $250.

Chan Namgong, CEO, Oncotect

For pet parents with pets that can’t sit still during vet visits, or panic or get aggressive during medical procedures, Ocotect’s test bills itself as non-invasive, requiring only a small urine sample from the furry friend, eliminating the stress and discomfort associated with more invasive screening methods.

What’s more, pet parents can access the test results in just seven days, which includes an easily understandable risk assessment, categorizing their furry companions as low, moderate, or high risk of the four most common types of canine cancers, including melanoma, lymphoma, mast cell tumor and hemangiosarcoma.

Additionally, Oncotect offers guidance to veterinarians and pet parents regarding the appropriate next steps based on the results.

“We are extremely excited to launch a game-changing solution that’s both simple and practical for at-home use,” said Oncotect founder and CEO Chan Namgong. “We are not only making a difference in the lives of dogs, but in the lives of their pet parents who depend on them so much emotionally and mentally.”

How does it work?

Oncotect’s patent-pending technology relies on the hyper-sensitive olfactory neuron of the Caenorhabditis elegans species of nematodes. These are microscopic worms capable of detecting cancer metabolites when exposed to urine containing them.

This methodology has been backed by scientific clinical research and published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers In Veterinary Science.

Since its founding in 2020, Oncotect has secured over $360,000 in funding, with investments from esteemed organizations such as Leap Venture Studio, the North Carolina Biology Center, and NCIDEA.

Disclosure: This article mentions a client of an Espacio portfolio company.


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