Detecting Skin Cancer
One of the deadliest forms of cancer is melanoma or skin cancer. The disease isn't that deadly by itself but it spreads easily and the resulting lung cancer, cancer of the liver or brain cancer will kill.
Someone approached me a few months ago with a new Canadian company that has invented a new hand-held machine that uses light to "see" if a mole is cancerous. The machine costs $30,000 for now but what it means in terms of savings is nothing short of remarkable.
Statistics show that family doctors correctly diagnose melanoma only 16% of the time. Dermatologists do much better but they are correct only 69% of the time. A biopsy for a single mole costs $500. The chances of a false positive are very high with 80-90% of biopsies coming back negative.
If skin cancer is detected early enough it costs about $5000 a year to treat and has a 99% recovery rate. At later stages, skin cancer costs over $100,000 a year to treat and survival over five years is a dismal 15%.
The company is named Verisante Technology. (VRS-V) They have developed a machine they call the Aura in conjunction with the BC Cancer Agency and the University of British Colombia. It detects skin cancer with great accuracy in about one second. While the initial cost of the machine is high at $30,000, nurses and non-skilled technicians can operate it.
This machine is not evolutionary. It's revolutionary. We can see the day-to-day leaps forward in technology used in our iPhones and iPads. Well, someone has used advanced technology for one of the biggest medical advancements I've seen in many years.
The company's model is that of a razor and razor blades. They will make a profit, naturally, selling the machine to Canada's 550 dermatologists and the 10,000 in the US at $30,000 but they will clean up selling the tips for $10 a patient. The cost of the machine is the same as having 60 biopsies done.
I don't doubt there will be some resentment from doctors. After all, they make a lot of money doing biopsies on moles that are non-cancerous. But any patient that knows about these machines is going to demand they be used.
I'm in my mid-60s. You may safely believe I'm concerned with skin cancer. 50% of Americans over 65 will get skin cancer. And that was before Japan went critical. Here is an interesting YouTube video on skin cancer well worth watching. We are all potential skin cancer patients.
Of all the companies I have paid attention to in the last 15 years Verisante offers more in the area of social contribution than any I have seen. This is a company making a product we really need. Down the road ten years, the cost of the machine might be $100 and be in every home. Between now and then it will save tens of thousands or perhaps millions of lives.
I participated in a private placement for a small amount of shares. I love the concept. I hope they make money and are rewarded for what they are doing but I have little doubt that the odds favor even people in the company coming down with skin cancer. I know they will think they have a valuable product.
Verisante is not an advertiser and we
get nothing from them for writing about them. The company doesn't
even know I am writing a piece. But I am more biased than I have
ever been towards a stock. If you buy some shares, you will feel
as if you have made one of the most worthwhile investments you
have ever made. I know, because I did.