10 Newtons teaching the science of touch

In today’s world, almost everyone knows someone with breast cancer. As cancer patient numbers increase, so do cancer survival rates, yet more can always be done to find cancer earlier.

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer for women in the United States, with 252,710 women diagnosed each year, per the National Breast Cancer Foundation. Research continues on ways to mitigate breast cancer effects through early detection.

In 2016, about 4,700 women in Wisconsin were diagnosed with invasive breast cancer, according to a report from the state Department of Health Services. And one in eight women in the state have a lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer.

Dr. Carla Pugh saw this problem as a surgeon and has spent the past 17 years working to develop technology for medical and surgical education to create simulations for clinical skills assessment. The need for this technology encouraged her to found her Madison area company, 10 Newtons, in 2016.

Pugh, a professor of surgery at Stanford University, aims to foster understanding of the science of touch for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

“As a company we connect healthcare professionals, patients and simulators with innovative technology to better understand every part of a medical procedure or other human interaction,” said Shane Kennedy, chief marketing officer for 10 Newtons.

The first product from this company is a new training device that quantifies the mastery of breast exam skills in physicians. BEST (Breast Exam Sensory Training) Touch enables physicians to get feedback on their clinical exam skills to ensure the highest quality of care for their patients.

The name 10 Newtons refers to the amount of pressure needed to find and identify a mass in the breast. A newton is a unit of force, named after famed scientist Isaac Newton.

“This is a lot more pressure than someone might understand, which can create physician error when completing the breast exam test on patients. Twenty-five percent of experienced physicians don’t press hard enough to actually identify a mass in a breast early on,” Kennedy said.

With 10 Newton’s device, BEST Touch, physicians can be trained and retested in order to catch masses early. Early detection of breast cancer drastically increases survival rates from 15 percent to 90 percent.

“Today as we meet with vendors, they value the data we have for clinical use of breast exams, but are looking for more data for how hospitals see the value of this. Therefore, 10 Newtons is working to create pilot sites to implement the BEST Touch into large hospitals to see how it works,” Kennedy said.

Founders at 10 Newtons plan to fund these pilot programs.

“The long-term the goal of 10 Newtons is much bigger than this product; we are looking at the ability to collect data, analyze touch, and generate feedback on medical procedures.”

In the future, that could mean working directly with patients to teach them how to properly examine themselves.

Kennedy said the BEST Touch is considered a training device and is, therefore, not subject to the Food and Drug Administration regulatory process.

By Alison Wedig

Wedig is a recently graduated student from the UW-Madison Department of Life Sciences Communications.