Portable device for breast cancer screening moves closer to market
10 Dec 2010
A new portable device that detects breast cancer based on
tissue elasticity has come a step closer to market with its licensing by
a medical device company
The non-invasive and radiation-free device may enable breast cancer
screening and cancer detection in populations where mammography is
not widely available or successful, including women in developing
countries, and those under the age of 40.
The technology, developed by Dr Wan Shih with Dr Wei-Heng Shih
and their team at Drexel University is now one step closer to market
thanks to its licensing by UE LifeSciences, a Philadelphia-based
medical device company focused on bringing effective and sustainable
breast cancer solutions to life.
Wan Shih, a breast cancer survivor herself, hopes that the
commercialization of the technology will help detect breast cancers
early in women in Asia whose breast cancers are typically found in
late stages with low rates of survival.
Shih’s project was selected to receive a $200,000 award through
the University City Science Center’s QED Program in its inaugural
cycle in the fall of 2009. The project also received support from
the Wallace H. Coulter Translational Research Program at Drexel
University. The QED Program is the first multi-institutional
proof-of-concept program for life sciences technologies. It bridges
the “valley of death”, the gap between academic research and
commercial development by providing scientists with guidance from
experienced regional entrepreneurs, feedback from regional investors
and funding to demonstrate proof of concept.
“It is gratifying to see the second QED technology licensed,”
says Science Center President & CEO Stephen S. Tang. “Not only does
it prove the concept of the QED Program, but we’re seeing the
potential for a huge impact on improving patient care and quality of
life. Early diagnosis can be a key in treating breast cancer. This
technology has the potential to open up early diagnosis to a new
Not only is the device inexpensive and easy to use, but early
results suggest it is highly sensitive, and able to provide clues as
to whether a lump is benign or malignant, potentially eliminating
some of the many biopsies performed every year.
A hand-held probe comprising piezoelectric finger (PEF) sensors
can detect very small forces and displacements at the surface. These
are then converted to electrical signals to determine the elastic
modulus or shear modulus, which serve as a precise indicator of
tissue stiffness in compression or in shear.
Simultaneous measurement of both shear and compression stiffness
in the underlying breast tissue enables detection of very small
tumours, and also differentiation of cancers from non-cancerous
lumps. The device may have particular utility for women with dense
breasts, such as Asian and younger women, for whom imaging
procedures that rely on differences in tissue density are more
"The technology’s potential to enhance the clinical breast exam
while maintaining high specificity can be key in further empowering
the women’s health provider community,” explains UE LifeSciences CEO
Mihir Shah. “We are also interested in leveraging the technology's
ability to provide non-invasive malignancy assessment; we envision
market potential in developing regions and primary health centres
around the world."