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These Startups Are Disrupting the Healthcare Industry With Targeted Cancer Treatments Innovations in big data, machine learning and in-device sensors are changing the nature of technology startups.

By Adam Toren

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


This year alone, an estimated 1.68 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the US. Almost 600,000 will die from the disease this year, with annual national expenditures for cancer care expected to grow to $156 billion by 2020.

Cancer is a disease that chooses no particular demographic, and the conditions and treatments involved are often as unique as each victim. Along with the healthcare industry, technology companies and startups are finding ways to address treatment and care through out-of-the-box techniques and methodologies.

Healthcare is currently one of the most prevalent and growing topics in the startup community. Within the healthcare technology niche, cancer is also a popular topic. While treatments vary across patients, the aim of these cancer-related innovations is to introduce disruptions through highly effective and engaging tools that have a unique approach to healthcare.

Related: 5 Trends Reinventing Healthcare

With the utilization of biotech treatments, in-depth data, hands-on client/patient care, smartphone and smartwatch sensors, and even fitness trackers, these startups are changing the way that we approach cancer treatment and prevention. Take a look at these four companies that are making powerful strides within the healthcare industry.


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, six million people every year die from smoking-related conditions worldwide. Meanwhile, lung cancer is cited by the National Cancer Institute as one of the most common cancers. In response, Somatix developed the app SmokeBeat, which uses machine learning in determining hand-to-mouth movement in its users through smartwatch sensors. The app takes into consideration specific contexts and movements, and will then try to motivate users to quit smoking through behavior modification.

This highly innovative and responsive app allows smokers to view smoking statistics, compare smoking habits to others, set smoking goals, and determine incentives for quitting. The app also uses geo-fencing (using GPS to determine geographical boundaries) to alert its users of possible smoking scenarios and present alternative activities via push notifications.


OncoSec is committed to developing safer and less invasive options for cancer treatment, specifically with the use of immunotherapy. Treatments like radiation and chemotherapy attack both healthy and cancerous cells, making them uncomfortable for the patient. Immunotherapy only targets cancerous cells, which makes the treatment safer long-term and far more comfortable. OncoSec is still continuing to develop its technology and plans to make great strides in the near future.

Related: How This Startup Is Blending Technology with Healthcare Using Chatbots

"The battle between cancer and the immune system is a complex mix of activity and inhibition," says OncoSec co-founder and CEO, Punit Dhillon. "Thus, we believe the key to improving patient outcomes is to combine treatments that stimulate different aspects of the immune system. Now, the goal is to understand how different therapeutics can work better together and expand the number of safer and more effective combinations to improve outcomes for patients."


Believe it or not, 54 percent of deaths caused by melanoma can be prevented. Detection, however, relies on the patient's diligence; it's all about reporting changes in skin color and texture. Even then, many victims have a hard time differentiating between harmless changes and those that are potentially dangerous. Luckily, SkinVision developed innovative technology that allows for an easier and earlier detection of skin cancer. The personalized smartphone application allows users to take high-quality photos of skin in potentially problematic areas. The app then assesses the photos to give insights on the potential risks. These photos are good enough quality for a dermatologist to examine, making it useful and accessible for doctors' needs, as well.

B4BC – Boarding for Breast Cancer.

The detection of breast cancer also depends on proactive self-inspections. The earliest stages of breast cancer are 100 percent treatable, but only if medical help is requested quickly. According to Johns Hopkins Medical Center, 40 percent of diagnosed breast cancer is detected by women who feel a lump on their own bodies, so regular breast self-exam is very important. B4BC, the latest app in breast cancer awareness, encourages women to regularly practice self-exams based on their menstrual cycles. The app is packed with tips on how to perform proper examinations, reminders for monthly self-exam times, and a large community of like-minded women to support and encourage one another. The app also notifies users about local events, fundraisers and volunteer opportunities within the breast cancer community.

Don't rule doctors out just yet.

Of course, when it comes to health, nothing beats professional wisdom and knowledge. We should still consult with our doctors on the best treatments and plans of action, whether it's for cancer or health in general.

Related: 6 Hot Healthcare Companies: From Smart Pill Bottles to Smart Diapers, What's Driving Innovation in Medical Tech?

The key takeaway here is the impact that technology has on our well-being, particularly in how it helps us become more mindful and responsible by using tools and applications that we can easily access on our own devices. But these startups are just a drop in the med-tech bucket. Technology-driven healthcare initiatives received $4.5 billion in 2015. With innovations in big data, machine learning and in-device sensors that are significantly changing the nature of technology startups, there are going to be more and more changes to the way we monitor our own health and well-being.

Adam Toren

Serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of

Adam Toren is a serial entrepreneur, mentor, investor and co-founder of He is co-author, with his brother Matthew, of Kidpreneurs and Small Business, BIG Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs Who Did it Right (Wiley). He's based in Phoenix, Ariz.

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