Photo/IllutrationNematodes used for cancer screening (Provided by Hirotsu Bio Science)

  • Photo/Illustraion

A Tokyo-based bio-venture company has developed a simple and effective test for cancer screening that requires just a drop of the subject's urine and a bunch of roundworms known as nematodes.

Hirotsu Bio Science, a venture concern with roots in Kyushu University, announced plans Oct. 1 to start trial tests this month using a urine test kit called N-Nose in conjunction with local governments in Fukuoka Prefecture.

City authorities in Kurume and Ogori will provide urine samples from employees for testing by the company. Participants will be informed of the results.

Hirotsu Bio Science said it intends to put the cancer screening kit into practical use from January.

Nematodes, a type of worm that is about 1 millimeter long and lives in soil, is known to be strongly attracted to the odor of cancer cells.

The technology automatically analyzes the worms' movements after approaching urine.

The company's president, Takaaki Hirotsu, said that even a single drop of urine was enough to detect cancer.

Once a positive diagnosis is made, doctors can examine the cancerous cell to determine what type of cancer is involved.

Hirotsu said 15 kinds of cancers can be detected, including stomach cancer, lung cancer and breast cancer. He said even cancer in the early stages can be detected at a higher rate than conventional tests.

A single examination costs just 9,800 yen ($91) as nematodes are cheap to rear.

The company has conducted clinical research at 17 facilities across the nation since 2018.

In the trial test, 100 Kurume and 20 Ogori local officials will participate. The test results of cancer risks will be divided into several stages and shown to the participants.

The test also aims to examine how the results should be conveyed to participants.

Hirotsu Bio Science has contracted with other companies and local governments to receive up to 250,000 samples so it can start full-fledged operations next year.

“If low cost and highly accurate cancer screening is available, the rate of screening will surely increase,” Hirotsu said. “I want to get the message out to people by working with local governments.”

Kurume Mayor Tsutomu Okubo, a staunch supporter of the project, pledged to do his utmost to ensure the kit is put into practical application "as a world-class invention.”

Ogori Mayor Ryoko Kaji, another supporter, noted that if cancer screening can be achieved with just a drop of urine, "more people are bound to take the test as a first step to prevent cancer."