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Palestinian Entrepreneurs Take Fight To Breast Cancer

New heat-detecting technology provides immediate tests results

RAMALLAH—Yazid Al-Badarin and Zaidoun Salah are not your typical cancer researchers, but after being indirectly affected by the disease the professors at Al-Quds Bard College for Arts & Sciences—a joint U.S.-Palestinian institution in the West Bank—decided to tackle the killer head-on. The result: a new mobile application that can immediately detect breast cancer through the use of heat-detecting photography.

“My father died from cancer and Zaidoun’s too,” Al Badarin told The Media Line, a reality that motivated both partners to launch the venture. “We’ve been working on the idea for two years as a lack of resources played a big role in delaying the development of the idea.”

Salah, who heads the Biology Department at Al-Quds Bard College, explained to The Media Line that due to enhanced metabolic activity, cancerous tumors create heat signatures which are identifiable and measurable in pictures taken by an external camera and then fed into the application.

“There is generally an infection surrounding the cancerous area and an increase in the quantity of the blood vessels,” Salah elaborated.

After conducting successful clinical trials on mice, the two academics recently received approval from the Palestinian Health Ministry to test the application on women in the West Bank. “It took us a long time and at the beginning we couldn’t even find animals to experiment with,” Al-Badarin revealed, adding that the two developers have already patented the technology in the Palestinian territories and aim to bring it to the global market.

“We are still in the developmental stage,” he continued, “and need to study the results on human bodies. We had few discussions about expanding the new invention but we don’t have a final business plan yet.”

The scientists confirmed, however, that the application will not be expensive, costing a maximum of $5.00 per download.

Al-Badarin, who holds a master’s degree in both computer science and math, explained that there is no existing mobile technology that can produce “immediate test results.” He also stressed that the application has no potential side effects like a mammogram, for example: a procedure that is usually conducted at most once per year.

The developers nevertheless urge all future users of the platform to confirm a positive result with a specialized physician in order to determine whether a detected tumor is benign or malignant. They also stressed that their product is not infallible and that people need to continue to get checked regularly by a doctor.

According to a 2017 American Cancer Society report, breast cancer makes up approximately twenty percent of all new cancer diagnoses in women globally. In the West Bank, statistics show that nearly 84 out of 100,000 people—52.5% female and 47.5% male—developed some form of cancer last year.

Imad Abu Kishek, president of Al-Quds University, congratulated Salah and Al Badarin, writing, “This brilliant Palestinian invention comes as part of our relentless effort to contribute to the treatment of paramount health issues nationally and internationally.”

While already a success story in the Palestinian territories, there is must work that still needs to be done according to Al-Badarin. “We aim for all women around the world to benefit from the immediate results of early diagnosis. Even the women who don’t have a smart phone will eventually be able to access the service at local labs that we will supply the application to.”