SmartBra detects early-stage breast cancer with non-invasive technology

A group of students from EPFL developed a device they call the SmartBra. They claim it's the first piece of smart clothing that is designed specifically to be used to prevent cancer. The students developed the smart clothing during a master-level class called Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Engineering. This particular class was given jointly by the School of Engineering and the College of Management of Technology.The SmartBra uses technology from a company called IcosaMed that emits ultrasound waves to perform echography scans for potentially cancerous cells. The ultrasound waves are generated using piezoelectric sensors. One of the team members says that the technology used in the SmartBra detection system is miniaturized, making it comfortable to wear and nearly invisible to the user.

If the sensors detect a suspicious mass of cells, the wearer is alerted so they can schedule an appointment with a specialist. The team believes the smart-clothing technology has the potential to lead to a revolutionary approach to cancer prevention. Engineers on the team also hope that someday their system can do more than detect cancer.

They say that they hope one day the system could act preventively and emit nearly continuous, low-dose ultrasound waves to stimulate apoptosis in cancerous masses. The team currently plans to launch the SmartBra commercially aiming at women who have been diagnosed with cancer allow them to monitor the condition daily. The commercial launch will come in 2021, and they say that eventually, the product will be marketed to all women.

As part of the research, the team developed a plastic interface that replaces the impedance gel typically used to hold ultrasonic emitters. This breakthrough could eventually lead to other smart textiles such as underwear and bodysuits detect and prevent different types of cancer. Currently, the team is raising funds for commercialization, saying that they need a total of CHF 4 million.