A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

The National Health Service in the UK has reported the formation of three new biomedical research units which it said will be at the forefront of a £10 million drive to prevent, diagnose and treat illnesses such as heart disease, asthma and obesity.

The new National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) biomedical research units – to be located in Liverpool, London and Nottingham – will focus on "translational research" that will take advances in basic medical research out of the laboratory and into the hospital clinic. The NHS said this means that patients will benefit more quickly from new scientific breakthroughs.

Each of the new units will receive £3.4 million over the next four years.

NHS said that the new units will complement the existing twelve NIHR biomedical research units in Bristol, Leeds, London, Nottingham, Oxford, Sheffield and Southampton, and the 12 NIHR biomedical research centers in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

"People who suffer from illnesses such as heart disease, gastrointestinal infections and pancreatic disease will really benefit from these new NIHR biomedical research units," said Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo. "The new funding will enable high quality research to flourish in these small but excellent research groups and will strengthen our drive to put the UK at the forefront of vital health research, as well as enhancing the nation's international reputation as a center for excellence."

iCAD SecondLook now available in Europe

iCAD (Nashua, New Hampshire), a provider of computer-aided detection (CAD) solutions, reported that its SecondLook Digital CAD technology, customized for use with Sectra's (Link ping, Sweden) MicroDose Mammography system, is now available throughout Europe.

"Adding the benefits of iCAD's technology to Sectra's digital mammography systems enhances the screening mammography experience exponentially for the radiologist," said Dr. Jean-Claude Piguet from ImageRive, the official and exclusive institution of postgraduate studies for the Universite de Geneve in Switzerland.

He added: "Sectra's Photon-Counting Technology provides a clearer, easier-to-read image due to high resolution, high DQE and low electronic noise. When coupled with iCAD's SecondLook Digital CAD to identify areas of interest for closer consideration, the solution significantly improves workflow and increases the detection of cancer."

iCAD has received CE mark marketing approval of customized solution with Sectra's mammography systems

"The availability of our CAD technology with Sectra solutions throughout Europe is a milestone in iCAD's business strategy outside the U.S.," said Ken Ferry, president/CEO of iCAD.

Sectra develops IT-systems and products for radiology, mammography and orthopedic departments.

CAD use in Italian cancer screening effort

About 26,000 residents within Italy's Piemonte region will be involved in its Protèus project, described as the first program in the world to use CAD to screen patients for colon cancer, part of the Italian province's cancer prevention efforts.

Protéus will feature the use of CAD-COLON, a diagnostic system developed as the result of more than 6 years of interdisciplinary medical and scientific research conducted by im3D – Medical Imaging Lab (Torino, Italy), together with its clinical and scientific partners.

The program is being launched in Torino and will allocate €4.7 million ($7.5 million) over two years to test the CAD as a primary screening protocol.

Protèus is sponsored by the Region of Piemonte, im3D, the University of Torino (through its Interdepartmental Center for Molecular Biotechnology and the Department of Medical Surgery Disciplines – Radiology section), the Center for Epidemiology and Oncology Prevention and CIS Piemonte. The program emphasizes the use of technological innovation applied to prevention.

The experimental screening program is hoping to confirm the diagnostic performance levels already obtained within preliminary studies using CAD-COLON, which have primarily addressed its sensitivity and specificity, im3D said.

Verification of the methodology means that it can then be applied to large-scale screening projects as well as to other pathologies.

CompuMed gets Chinese okay for OsteoGram

CompuMed (Los Angeles), a provider of diagnostic software solutions, said it has received approval from China's State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) to market its OsteoGram system for screening, diagnosing and monitoring osteoporosis.

The approval enables CompuMed to sell the OsteoGram product as an approved clinical device in China and will allow the company to work with its Chinese OEMs to target a market with "substantial strategic importance."

CEO Maurizio Vecchione said, "With this approval, we have passed all of the regulatory hurdles necessary to support our effort in the Chinese market, where the demographics are very favorable and the incidence of bone disease is very high."

CompuMed noted that osteoporosis affects more than 200 million people worldwide and is "especially prevalent" in China, where the traditional diet lacks calcium. It said that, according to China's most recent national census, about 100 million Chinese suffer from the disease in various stages.

The OsteoGram is a software-based bone density measurement system that can be used with digital X-ray equipment, as well as with older film-based machines. CompuMed said it provides an "accurate, low-cost alternative to DXA bone mineral density screening systems, which require dedicated and costly equipment, office space and staff."

The company said OsteoGram's benefits in terms of cost and efficiency "can help facilitate more widespread osteoporosis screening and treatment of at-risk patients."

ExAblate trial under way in U.S.

InSightec (Tirat Carmel, Israel) reported that the first U.S. patient has been treated in the company's pivotal trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the non-invasive, radiation-free ExAblate magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) system as a pain-relieving treatment for patients with bone metastases who have failed an initial round of palliative radiation.

The ExAblate system was approved to treat women suffering from symptomatic uterine fibroids in 2004. More than 4,000 women have undergone treatment with ExAblate worldwide.

"Pain from tumors that have spread to the bone is the most common kind of pain for cancer patients," said InSightec President/CEO Dr. Kobi Vortman. "Many patients are too weak to withstand invasive procedures to quell their pain if it persists or recurs after palliative radiation."

He added, "We look forward to advancing the trial in hopes that ExAblate may provide a non-invasive, ionized radiation-free means to improve the quality of life of late-stage cancer patients."

The company noted that bone is the third-most-common tissue to which cancer spreads, after the lungs and liver. Almost all patients with metastatic prostate cancer have skeletal metastases and in breast cancer, bone is the second-most-common site of metastatic spread, affecting 90% of patients with progressive breast cancer.

InSightec noted that most cancer patients suffer from pain, so controlling it and managing its symptoms are important treatment goals.

Using the ExAblate system, a physician uses MRI to visualize the patient's anatomy and then aims focused ultrasound waves at the targeted tissue to thermally ablate, or destroy it. The MRI allows the physician to monitor and continuously adjust the treatment in real time.

The company noted that due to the high acoustic absorption and low thermal conductivity of the bone cortex, it is possible to use a low level of energy and still achieve a localized heating effect while minimizing damage to adjacent tissue.

InSightec said it hopes to enroll patients with bone metastases who have failed palliative radiation therapy into the study, which is being conducted at 15 sites across the U.S. among them Brigham & Women's Hospital (Boston), Fox Chase Cancer Center (Philadelphia), Methodist Hospital (Houston), University of California, San Diego Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medical College (New York).

The company is in the process of obtaining institutional review board approval from the remaining sites.

The ExAblate 2000 system received CE-mark certification for pain palliation of bone metastases in June.

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