About one in eight Canadian women will develop breast cancer during their lifetime and one in 34 will die from it, according to the Canadian Cancer Society. As with any cancer, early detection is key to better outcomes.

The mammogram has been the most common screening tool for breast cancer since the 1960s, and it has saved many lives through early detection. But 45 per cent of women have dense breast tissue, which is linked to a higher risk of breast cancer and also makes it more difficult to evaluate the results of a mammogram. In addition, many women don’t begin getting regular mammograms until after they turn 50, which gives tumours more time to grow before they are detected.

It was with these limitations in mind that a group of researchers at the University of Calgary, led by Dr. Tina Rinker, Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer at healthcare company Syantra, began developing a new screening tool for detecting breast cancer in the early stages. The team developed Syantra DX | Breast Cancer, a blood test that measures a panel of gene expression biomarkers and then uses machine learning software to interpret the data.

In 2021, Syantra Inc. received accreditation from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA), for the Syantra DX | Breast Cancer screening blood test, making it available to the public.

Removing Barriers for Better Healthcare

Calian has partnered with Syantra to bring this new screening tool to women in more than 100 cities across Canada. “Through our mobile nursing network and Calian® Nexi™ digital platform, we’re improving access for women to this breakthrough screener,” says Kaytlin Sadler, Vice President of Patient Solutions at Calian.”

The company’s experience in managing patient support programs (PSPs) enables Calian to remove some of the key challenges in accessing the new screener.

“Once a product like this comes onto the market, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s readily available,” says Sadler. “There are usually some barriers to entry. One is accessing a healthcare professional, for example, a nurse who can come to a convenient location—maybe your home, a local clinic or your place of work—to will draw that blood sample for you. The other piece is affordability —connecting that patient to the means where they can financially access that new product.”

The Syantra DX | Breast Cancer test costs $499. While the cost can be a barrier to entry, through its patient support programs, Calian connects the patient with available funding options. These could include an employer-sponsored health spending account or other sources of healthcare funding.

How Effective is the Test?

The Syantra DX | Breast Cancer test was evaluated in clinical studies for women between 25 and 80 and has an accuracy rate of 92.2 per cent for women between 25 and 80, and 98.5 per cent for women under 50. This compares favourably with accuracy rates for mammograms, which correctly identify about 87 per cent of breast cancer overall, with higher accuracy for women over 50.

Local home care agencies and community and private labs can join the Calian network to support the administration of blood draw services for patients across Canada, by emailing [email protected].

Listen to the radio interview about the Calian-Syantra collaboration.

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