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Business Trends

To spot cancer, Hitachi offers urine test and Shimadzu taps AI

Japanese companies working on better ways to detect malignancies in early stages

Hitachi, which offers a particle cancer therapy system, has developed a urine test for early detection.

TOKYO -- Japan's Hitachi has developed technology to detect breast or colon cancer from urine samples, while peer Shimadzu has turned to artificial intelligence to identify malignancies in two minutes. 

In tests using Hitachi's technology, urine samples collected at home, rather than blood taken by doctors, will be sent to a laboratory to be analyzed for about 30 types of cancer biomarkers found in amino acids and fats. The company hopes to begin test trials in fiscal 2018.

Meanwhile, Shimadzu has tapped AI for biopsies to analyze cell samples taken from patients, cutting the time needed for analysis to two minutes from half an hour. The technology can identify liver, kidney, colon, stomach and other cancers. The plan is to start selling special equipment as early as 2020.

Materials maker Toray Industries aims to sell a reagent that detects biomarkers for 13 types of cancers from blood samples around 2020. The test, which uses a special chip, can spot breast cancer with more than 94% accuracy while lowering the cost to about 20,000 yen ($180) -- an 80% savings.

U.S. and European medical companies are in a race to develop early detection technologies, and now Japanese rivals are joining the fray.

California-based Illumina, a global leader in genomics backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, hopes to launch by 2019 a service that finds cancer before symptoms appear. Swiss drugmaker Roche Holding is also working on a reagent that identifies cancer types using blood samples.

Total spending on cancer treatments reached 3.58 trillion yen in Japan in fiscal 2015, up roughly 1 trillion yen over the last decade, according to the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Cancer patients worldwide are expected to increase 50% to 21 million in 2030. Efforts for early detection are aimed at curbing such spending.


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