A Diagnostics & Imaging Week

Last week's European Congress of Radiology (ECR) in Vienna, Austria, one of Europe's largest radiological gatherings, featured a number of companies reporting new agreements, appointments and product developments.

Royal Philips Electronics' Philips Medical Systems (Best, the Netherlands) unveiled what it termed a "breakthrough" positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) system at the ECR meeting.

The company said its Gemini TF is the first PET system to use atomic particle time measurements to deliver increased image quality and consistency, helping earlier disease detection in patients.

Philips noted that in a conventional PET system, a decaying radioactive agent is injected into the patient. "As each nucleus decays, it releases a positron that immediately collides with an electron, releasing two gamma rays that travel away from the collision zone at 180 degrees from each other," the company said in a statement.

It said these pairs of gamma rays are observed by the PET scanner, which uses this information to calculate where the agent is concentrated, thus creating an image of the affected area. "Although the gamma rays in each pair arrive at slightly different times depending on their origination, this is not traditionally measured," the company said. "With time-of-flight, this time difference can be measured, enabling the point of origination to be more accurately predicted and leading to much more accurate imaging."

Philips said the advantages of the technology have been previously demonstrated in a research environment, but that it is the first healthcare technology provider to translate these benefits into a solution for consistent and reliable clinical use.

Gemini TF is the world's first commercially available time-of-flight PET/CT system, in which gamma rays are more accurately tracked using minute time measurements. The company said the system raises effective image sensitivity by more than two times over conventional PET.

Image acquisition is shortened to less than 10 minutes for a whole-body PET scan, Philips said, even for larger patients, who had previously needed additional scan time. As with all Gemini PET/CT systems, Gemini TF also features the company's OpenView gantry design, allowing for increased patient comfort.

"This addition to our portfolio demonstrates … our ability to translate [our] expertise into clinical solutions which integrate seamlessly into the patient care cycle," said Peter Cempellin, general manager of Philips Medical's PET/CT Division. "Gemini TF is a step-change for PET, delivering greatly improved performance and with it the possibility of earlier detection of disease and earlier treatment for patients in the future."

Philips said the combined benefits of faster sampling, longer useful imaging times from short-lived isotopes and the use of new low-efficiency tracers would "significantly increase the utility of PET/CT for every healthcare stakeholder."

It said the technology "opens the pathway" to molecular imaging applications of the future.

Imaging Diagnostic Systems (Fort Lauderdale) said that clinical results from six studies relating to its CT Laser Mammography (CTLM) system were presented during the meeting. The company also exhibited at the congress, providing what it termed "many insights" into applications for cancer detection, cancer staging and following the course of cancer treatments.

The company said the presentations of clinical results "reflect worldwide clinical and academic interest in a multidisciplinary approach that could improve the accuracy of conventional imaging methods." It said that molecular imaging approaches such as MRI and nuclear medicine are being used more frequently for breast imaging, and that the presentations in Vienna "demonstrate the clinical recognition that CTLM is gaining."

The studies address the use of CTLM in multidisciplinary breast cancer case assessments and methods to aid interpretation. The ability of CTLM to follow response to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in breast cancer patients also was investigated.

"The presentation of clinical research from leading medical centers and researchers reinforces CTLM's role in managing breast cancer," said Deborah O'Brien, senior vice president of Imaging Diagnostic Systems. "With the increasing interest in optical imaging and the number of publications and presented results, recognition of our laser breast imaging technology's current and future applications is clearly growing."

Eastman Kodak (Rochester, New York) and BUPA Hospitals Ltd. reported an agreement under which Ko-dak's Health Group will support BUPA's 26 hospitals across the United Kingdom in transitioning to digital medical imaging and information management.

The agreement will involve the deployment of Kodak's Carestream Radiology Solution and Enterprise Information Management Solution platforms. These platforms will facilitate the generation and storage of patients' radiology images, as well as the remote reporting of radiology exams within and among the BUPA hospitals.

Kodak will support the deployment with a range of professional services in conjunction with the transition, including project management, implementation and training.

The company said its patient-focused platforms would provide transition for the current diagnostic workload, plus a rapidly scaleable infrastructure for future diagnostic service expansion.

A BUPA Data Center will provide the hub for a clinical repository for long-term image storage and to support image sharing among the 26 hospitals, plus secure web reporting across the BUPA network.

Local picture archiving and communications systems (PACS) will be deployed at each hospital to provide digital image capture from hospital modalities, local diagnostic reporting and web distribution of images.

Implementation across BUPA hospitals will begin upon completion of site surveys at the end of this month followed by a phased rollout.

"The ability to share and display digital patient images between clinical sites will help us to maintain our high-quality patient care and improve radiologist workflow," said Clare Hollingsworth, managing director of BUPA Hospitals Ltd.

Ian Marron, director of e-health solutions for Kodak's Europe, Africa & Middle East Region, said the selection by BUPA of the company's e-health solution "is a great endorsement for our integrated radiology solution."

Kodak's PACS, radiology information systems and storage management solutions are deployed at healthcare facilities around the world, including more than 250 sites across the European Union.

In another company announcement at the ECR meeting, Zonare Medical Systems (Mountain View, California) said Cornel Schoelgens was joining the company as managing director-Europe. Schoelgens has more than 20 years' experience in diagnostic imaging, most recently as managing director for SonoSite in Germany. Zonare Medical Systems is a developer of ultrasound technology.

ECR is one of Europe's largest radiological meetings, attracting nearly 15,000 attendees from 90 countries.

Chembio cites advances in Nigeria, Ethiopia

Chembio Diagnostics (Medford, New York) said the Nigerian Ministry of Health has designated the company's HIV 1/2 Stat-Pak as a screening test in four out of the eight testing protocols that comprise Nigeria's Interim National Testing Algorithm.

The company said Nigeria initially is implementing a parallel-testing algorithm, and as such uses two screening tests from different manufacturers on each patient tested. It said the program is being launched "very soon" to quickly and accurately identify HIV positive individuals so that the nation's treatment goals can be achieved.

Chembio noted that Nigeria is Africa's most populous country, with an estimated 135 million inhabitants. It has an estimated 3.6 million HIV-infected individuals, of whom only 28,500 are currently receiving anti-retroviral treatment, according to a recent report to Congress by PEPFAR, the acronym for President George Bush's $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. PEPFAR's goal is for 350,000 Nigerians to receive anti-retroviral treatment by 2008.

Chembio said rapid HIV tests that allow patients to be screened and confirmed at the point of care will help in Nigeria's efforts to scale up testing and thereby meet its treatment goals more rapidly.

It said that in addition to the PEPFAR targets, the Nigerian National AIDS Control Administration is aiming to put 250,000 people on anti-retroviral viral treatment as soon as possible.

Chembio said estimates by the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS and other experts indicate that on average some 100 people need to be tested in order to identify one person eligible for treatment. This results in a projected need for 35 million patients to be tested just to meet the goals established by PEPFAR for Nigeria.

"We … believe that millions of individuals will need to be tested in order to identify HIV patients suitable for ARV treatment and to meet treatment targets," said Avi Pelossof, Chembio's vice president of sales, marketing and business development.

In late 2005, Chembio established Chembio Diagnostics Nigeria Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary headed by Dr. Joseph Nnorom, MD, who previously was the medical epidemiologist of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Atlanta) Global AIDS Program in Nigeria.

In other news, Chembio said it has appointed Setema Ltd. as distributor of its rapid HIV tests in Ethiopia. Ethiopia has a population of more than 73 million, of which an estimated 1.5 million are infected with HIV.

As part of a planned scale-up of rapid testing programs, Ethiopia is currently evaluating rapid HIV tests, including Chembio's two HIV 1/2 Stat-Pak tests, for possible inclusion in Ethiopia's testing protocol.

Chembio said Setema is one of the largest medical device distributors in Ethiopia and the country's sole supplier of HIV viral load tests, which monitor patients already identified with HIV to determine if and when they require anti-retroviral therapy.

Ireland labs adopting ThinPrep test

Cytyc (Marlborough, Massachusetts) said that all laboratories performing cervical cancer screening in Ireland are adopting the company's ThinPrep Pap Test.

Most of the laboratories in Ireland had completed the conversion process last year, including the installation of a ThinPrep Imaging System at the University of Dublin, Trinity College.

Cytyc's Irish distributor, Screenlink, recently won the tender for the remaining two laboratories in Cork and Galway, making Cytyc the exclusive supplier of liquid-based cytology in Ireland, where some 250,000 Pap tests are performed annually.

About 150,000 tests have been converted to the ThinPrep Pap Test thus far, and the remainder is expected to be converted in the next few months.

"The recently completed agreements with laboratories in Galway and Cork make the choice of ThinPrep Pap Test unanimous in Ireland," said David Harding, president of Cytyc International. "This is a tribute to our technology, as well as the dedicated efforts of our team at Cytyc UK and Screenlink."

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