Devices & Diagnostics

Imaging startup garners $3.45 million to detect breast cancer early

A U.K. startup has raised money to ramp up commercialization of its novel CE-Marked breast imaging technology to detect cancer earlier in younger women.

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Some breast cancer startups are focused on making lumpectomies or breast cancer surgeries easier on patients by aiming to eliminate repeat procedures that occur when cancer at the margins is not identified.

Dune Medical and Lumicell, for instance, have developed devices that can detect cancerous tissue during surgery. But one startup is aiming to solve a different problem: how to image the breast better such that abnormal tissue can be detected earlier.

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U.K-based Micrima announced Thursday that it has raised $3.45 million (2.6 million pounds) from investors to commercialize its CE-Marked radiowave breast imaging system. Investors were Technology Venture Partners, Swarraton Partners and the British Business Bank-supported Angel CoFund. The Parkwalk managed University of Bristol Enterprise Fund as a new investor. Angels also participated through the Venture Founders platform.

Today, the standard diagnostic and screening tool for breast cancer is the mammogram, in which low-dose X-ray creates an image of the breast tissue with the woman’s breast compressed against the mammogram machine.

MARIA scanning head with cutaway view showing radiowave array.

MARIA scanning head with cutaway view showing radiowave array.

While Micrima’s Maria technology does not seek to replace the gold standards of mammography and ultrasound, it does appear to offer certain benefits: breast tissue does not need to be compressed as the patient lies on a horizontal couch with an aperture through which a scanning head images the breast.

And because the technology used is radiowaves as opposed to X-rays, it is non-ionising. In lay terms, women can be repeatedly screened using this technology because there is no fear of exposing them to high radiation levels. Micrima also claims that the entire imaging takes about five minutes from scan to image generation whereas a mammogram may take 10 to 15 minutes and an additional 5 minutes to develop the X-rays.

In recent years, even mammogram technology has not stayed still. Hologic, a public company has been at the forefront of 3-D mammography, which was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2011. The same X-ray technology is used but multiple images of different angles and slices of the breast are combined to render a 3-D reconstruction of the breast.

This technology is apparently better at reading dense breast tissue and has lower false positives than traditional mammography. Micrima is focused on both dense and lucent breast types, but is evalulating its technology more for women under 40 in a clinical trial that is recruiting patients by invitation, according to ClinicalTrials.gov.

Photo: Micrima