Toshiba’s New Test Can Detect 13 Cancer Types with 99% Accuracy from a Single Drop of Blood


Toshiba Corporation has developed a simple, highly accurate cancer detection technology that utilizes microRNA in blood. With a unique electrochemical microRNA detection technology, the company confirmed to comprehensively distinguish between healthy individuals and patients with 13 cancer types, such as pancreatic cancer and breast cancer, within two hours and with 99% accuracy at the research and development level. The company will begin verification tests in 2020 to implement this technology in our society as soon as possible.

The details of the technology will be presented at the 42nd Annual Meeting of the Molecular Biology Society of Japan, held from December 3−6, 2019, in Fukuoka, Japan.

Cancer has been the leading cause of death in Japan since 1981, and claimed approximately 370,000 victims in 2018. Today, the probability of a Japanese developing cancer at some point in their lifetime stands at 62% for men and 47% for women. However, advances in treatment have won dramatic improvements in survival rates, as long as the cancer is detected at early stage. For example, in lung cancer, the 5-year survival rate is approximately 60% for stage II cancers, but as high 97% for stage 0. Early detection is crucial.

MicroRNA, small non coding RNA molecules, has attracted attention as a reliable marker for cancer. Humans have roughly 2,500 types microRNA in their blood, and their activity provides the basis for analysis. Toshiba developed its microRNA-based cancer detection technology through participation in the Japan Agency for Medical Research and Development’s Project Focused on Developing Key Technology for Discovering and Manufacturing Drugs for Next-Generation Treatment and Diagnosis, a development program focused on developing the foundations of microRNA measurement technology in bodily fluids.

In a three-way collaboration, advanced medical knowledge on microRNA from Tokyo Medical University and the National Cancer Center Japan were brought together for testing with Toshiba’s microRNA detection technology. The results fully distinguished between samples from healthy individuals and those indicating the presence of any of 13 cancers with 99% accuracy. The results include some samples of stage 0, the very earliest stage of cancer growth, before its spread.

The results of this research are immensely promising, and pave the way to development of a simple, highly accurate screening tool for the 13 cancers. The time required for testing can be reduced to less than two hours by combining a microRNA chip with a compact, dedicated testing devices, securing same-day results.

The Toshiba Next Plan, released in November 2018, announced Toshiba Group’s full-fledged re-entry into medical businesses, primarily into precision medicine characterized by very early detection of conditions and provision of individualized treatment. The newly developed microRNA detection technology achieves early detection of cancer with high-level accuracy, and will enable early treatment that helps to improve survival rates and quality of life.


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