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Meet The Innovators: Ayla Annac

Meet The Innovators

Life After Cancer: Healthy Heart, Healthy Life

Posted by Samantha Mathewson on August 7, 2017.

Ayla Annac, Chief Executive Officer, President and Co-founder of InvivoSciences, Inc., strives to improve cancer treatments so that patients can receive the most effective treatment while living a happier, healthier life in remission.

Annac and her team are working on a new diagnostic tool that is used to test the toxic effect of certain cancer medications on patients’ heart and long-term health, otherwise known as cardiotoxicity. Using a small blood or urine sample, Annac and her team can create micro heart tissues representing a patient’s heart in test tubes and then analyze them with treatments to find biomarkers to gauge strengths of cancer treatments. Monitoring heart health with a biomarker test (like a blood glucose monitoring) can balance strength of cancer treatment and its cardiotoxicity to maximize effectiveness of treatment without damaging the heart.

Understanding the long-term adverse treatment effects has become an important area of research as anti-cancer treatments improve and the survival rate of cancer patients increases. However, current procedures for monitoring cardiac side effects are expensive and therefore unsustainable in the long-term for helping mitigate cardiotoxicity in cancer patients.

“I lost my father due to sudden cardiac arrest at [the age of] 53 in Turkey and became a provider for my family at young age,” Annac said. “I believe we all can create our heart desires. My journey as an entrepreneur with my team has been a heroic one, as we have faced many obstacles and naysayers. Our persistence and pure faith in our dream and vision of healing hearts of the patients kept us alive and continue in working to produce strong validation data and scientific support via diligent effort of all team members.

“Our families, friends and like-minded members of our community have been the single source of support and strength in our journey,” Annac added. “My journey and reason of being an biotechnology entrepreneur is personal with a strong desire to protect hearts. Unfortunately, I have more to go till I find the funds we need to fully commercialize our current diagnostic tool for cancer.”

Annac’s research aims to cut the cost of expensive diagnostic procedures, such as echocardiogram tests, and mainstream their new technology in hospitals worldwide — but accomplishing this is no easy feat.

“Finding an investor to help us take our diagnostic tool to the commercial stage has proven to be one of my biggest challenges … I am only able to work with one or two clinics that know our scientific team and their research – -,” Annac said. “I don’t yet have the funding to make it available to all cancer patients.”

However, knowing that this technology could help save lives drives Annac to continue her research and efforts to one day integrate her innovative technology in to hospitals.

“You cannot give out what you don’t have — you want to make sure that your work comes from the heart,” Annac said.

“Another thing that keeps me motivated is that I have a family that believes in what I am doing,” Annac added. “My family supports me and they are happy that I have chosen to spend my life doing this — but it is not easy.”

Annac lost her father to a heart attack and can relate to the feeling of loosing a loved one suddenly.

“My father died of a heart attack — they are very sudden… people are not prepared for heart attacks,” she said. “They are more prepared for cancer.”

Her goal is to reduce the adverse effects of common cancer treatments by sampling and testing patients’ heart tissue for signs of cardiotoxicity, such as a heart attack. This diagnostic tool will help doctors administer more appropriate doses of medications so that cancer survivors can have a healthy heart and a healthy life in remission.

Annac also noted the important role her research plays for children that have survived cancer, adding, “It is critical that children maintain a healthy life and we protect their hearts because they are the future.”

As a wife and mother of two, Annac has had to make her fair share of sacrifices to balance her family and work with InvivoSciences over the last 16 years. However, she still finds some time to enjoy the simple things in life.

“I get my high energy in yoga and practicing healing arts,” she said. “I enjoy Latin dancing with my husband at least few times a year, whenever I get free time. I meditate regularly to be grounded and reduce stress, as our work requires never ending effort and investment of energy and resources.”

To learn more and support Ayla’s work: click here to visit her campaign page.

Follow Samantha Mathewson – @Sam_Ashley13

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