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MSIM Students Gain Insight at Bladder Cancer Summit

Jonas Pirkl shares the meaningful impact of the BCAN Summit on his cancer-screening venture.
The student team of Cellens, pictured with Jack Derby, Director of Tufts Entrepreneurship Center, after winning the Montle Prize.

As research for their first Innovation Sprint, a team of M.S. in Innovation & Management students recently attended the BCAN Bladder Cancer Summit in Baltimore. Jonas Pirkl, a member of the Cellens team, shared his perspective on the event with us in his own words.


 

The event is hosted by the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network, advocating for greater public awareness and increased funding for research to identify effective treatments and, eventually, a cure for bladder cancer. 

My team and I (Srushti Acharekar, Jean Pham, and Fiona Wang) went to Baltimore to learn more about the current journey that bladder cancer patients have to endure after receiving their diagnosis. Our team is highly interested in the study of bladder cancer since Tufts University's own Dr. Igor Sokolov taught us about a technology that allows for a non-invasive, highly accurate screening method. Current screening standards are invasive, painful, inconvenient, expensive, and often not as accurate as they should be. 

The experience at the conference was great. Once we arrived at the conference, we separated and talked to as many people as we possibly could. 80 interviews later, we found out about current pain points, the psychological stress that comes with a diagnosis for patients and caregivers, financial struggles, and many misdiagnoses and late diagnoses due to current screening standards. 

While many of the stories were uplifting because they were told by survivors, there were also some heartbreaking ones. Some of the caregivers still feel a strong connection to the BCAN network even after their loved one has passed away. In general, it was fascinating to see how strong of a community BCAN has created. Everyone tried to help each other, doctors participated in panel discussions, and multiple planned activities and workshops were aimed at improving the current situation for bladder cancer patients, doctors, and caregivers.

The stories shared by current patients and survivors have really impacted our work. Many of them even offered to stay in touch with us after the conference. We have already met one of them again in Boston two weeks ago. One doctor we met with at the conference mentioned a "huge gap in screening," a huge gap we are trying to fill with our technology. 

Cellens at BCAN Summit

 


 

The Cellens team also recently participated in Tufts Entrepreneurship Center's Montle Prize for Entrepreneurial Achievement, where they won a top award of $7,500 for their innovative proposal.

Read more about their pitch.

Team Cellens with Kevin Oye & TEC coaches