By Stephanie Baum, MedCity News


Esophageal cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers in western countries and has one of the highest mortality rates among cancers. About 17,990 new cases are diagnosed in the United States each year, according to data from the American Cancer Society. More than 15,000 people die from esophageal cancer annually.


Medical device company Cernostics is developing a more accurate way to evaluate the risk of patients with Barrett’s esophagus developing esophageal cancer. It’s working in partnership with Geisinger Health System with support from other institutions. It has received $100,000 in follow-on funding for its esophageal cancer test from Pennsylvania’s economic development arm, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania.


It follows a $1.4 million Series B round raised in the fourth quarter last year from Novitas Capital, Geisinger Health System and the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse. Cernostics is using it to speed up commercialization of its lead diagnostic.


Tissue Cypher Technology is a molecular test that simultaneously evaluates multiple cells and processes in a single biopsy, according to a statement from Ben Franklin. It’s designed to replace the current process, which is largely manual and subjective. In addition to Geisinger, Cernostics is developing the molecular diagnostic in collaboration with University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, and the Academic Medical Center in Amsterdam in The Netherlands.


It’s also using the technology to develop tests for lung cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer.


Its partnership with the Academic Medical Center announced earlier this year gives the company access to one of the largest Barrett’s Esophagus patient registries in the world. Cernostics is using it with other data to complete clinical validation studies.


People can get Barrett’s esophagus with severe gastroesophageal reflux disease and heartburn. Cells in the lower esophagus become damaged, frequently from repeated exposure to stomach acid.