Three northeast Ohio businesses, with the aid of a $2.5 million grant from
Ohio's Third Frontier
, are researching first-of-their-kind imaging technology that will help detect medical conditions, such as cancer, sooner and save hospitals money by reducing the number of biopsies taken.
Case Western Reserve University
, University Hospitals
and Philips Healthcare
, partnered in the summer of 2010 to form the Philips Healthcare Global Advanced Imaging Innovation Center, where they have multiple projects aimed at combining the best attributes of CT, PET and MRI imaging systems to give doctors better tools in identifying breast cancer and take earlier action in heart attack patients.
The projects, which combine medical imaging technologies already in use, could eventually save hospitals millions in costs, give Ohio a leg-up on their commercialization and--most importantly--save lives.
In one project, the partners hope to combine PET (Positron Emission Tomography) with Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) systems, both of which are currently used to detect early signs of breast cancer, to provide doctors with higher resolution imaging that will ultimately give doctors a clearer picture of what’s happening inside the body.
"The focus is on improving the spatial resolution, allowing us to find tumors much smaller than we can find now," says Dr. Raymond Muzic, the project's leader and an associate professor at Case Western. "MRI's, when used clinically, often show spots that look suspicious but turn out to not be a problem. Getting images with higher resolution will help us determine which spots are a problem and which are not."
The better imaging would reduce the number of biopsies doctors order to determine malignancy, saving hospitals thousands of dollars. It would also help doctors catch tumors much earlier, which could mean the difference between life and death.
According to the American Cancer Society, patients who are diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer, with tumors two centimeters or smaller, have up to a 20 percent greater chance of surviving cancer than patients who advance to Stage II, in which tumors are larger and start spreading to the lymph nodes.
The second project looks to do something similar--only with heart patients. Researchers are pairing cardiac perfusion technology with CT scanners, creating a novel imaging system that would allow emergency room doctors to assess the extent and location of damaged heart muscle when time is of the essence.
The partners are each contributing $1 million toward the projects, along with equipment and the time of researchers and engineers. Once the engineering is completed, University Hospitals and Case Western will oversee the clinical trials. Results are expected "within a few years," according to Muzic.
"The projects are a win-win for everybody involved," he said. "The goal is to develop a product here in Ohio that can be manufactured in Ohio by an Ohio company and marketed throughout the world. It's a win for each of the partners and it's a win for the state."