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PHILADELPHIA--(December 1, 2010) – A new 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. Dr. Wan Shih with Dr. Wei-Heng Shih and their team at Drexel University have developed a non-invasive, radiation-free, portable device used for breast cancer detection based on measurements of tissue elasticity.
The technology 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 young women and women in Asia whose breast cancers are typically found in late stages with low rates of survival to save lives. 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. Since its launch in April 2009, the QED Program has screened nearly 180 proposals, provided advisory services to 30 projects, and made six awards to scientists at Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. It is expected to make awards to three more technologies later this year.
Shih’s project is the second QED-funded project to be licensed. Her team was assisted by QED Business Advisor Susan Maley. “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 population.” 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 tumors, 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 challenging. "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 centers around the world."
About The Science Center The University City Science Center accelerates technology commercialization, regional economic development, and the market availability of life-enhancing scientific breakthroughs by bringing together innovations, scientists, entrepreneurs, funding, laboratory facilities, and business services. Established in 1963 and headquartered in Philadelphia, PA, the Science Center was the first, and remains the largest, urban research park in the United States. It provides services that range from incubator space with fully-equipped laboratories and “plug ‘n play” offices for entrepreneurs to path-breaking programs designed to demonstrate, nurture, and sustain new technology businesses and bring their benefits to the region and the world. Graduate organizations and current residents of the University City Science Center’s Port business incubators have created more than 15,000 jobs that remain in the Greater Philadelphia region today and contribute more than $9 billion to the regional economy annually. For more information about the Science Center, go to www.sciencecenter.org.
About Drexel University Founded in 1891, Drexel is the nation’s 14th largest private university and is ranked as one of the nation’s most innovative universities by US News & World Report. Drexel is widely recognized for its focus on experiential learning through its co- operative education program, technology and translational research. For more information about Drexel, go to www.drexel.edu.
About UE LifeSciences Inc. UE LifeSciences Inc. is a Philadelphia-based corporation striving to deliver the promise of 'breast cancer is curable, if detected early' for women of all ages and demographics, around the world. UE LifeSciences is focused to develop technologies that augment the effectiveness of existing breast cancer screening tools and methods. NoTouch BreastScanTM, developed by UE LifeSciences, is an entirely touch-less and radiation-free adjunctive breast exam designed to identify physiologic signs of developing breast cancer. For more information, go to www.NoTouchBreastScan.com.