Fairway gets $3.8 million in Fed funding for early cancer detection tools

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Fairway Medical Technologies has been awarded new federal funding of $3.8 million to put towards Phase II research into breast and prostate cancer detection using a laser optoacoustic imaging technology the company has developed. The company said that laser-ultrasound-nanotechnology combination is able to detect malignant breast tumors one-fifth the size found with conventional technology  The research funding includes authorization of two National Cancer Institute grants. Plans are for the optoacoustic technology will be introduced as a real-time screening tool for breast cancer detection and diagnosis by Seno Medical Instruments of San Antonio, through a long-term development agreement with Fairway.

The new $2.7 million nanotechnology grant should allow Fairway to prove that optoacoustic imaging can locate tumors tagged with gold nanorods bound to antibodies against breast cancer-specific receptors, the company said.

“The goal of the Phase II breast cancer research is to determine whether the optimized imaging system will enable in vivo imaging of early in situ breast tumors in animals with excellent sensitivity,” said Alexander A. Oraevsky, PhD, vice president of R &D and the principal investigator, Fairway. “If we can establish its capability to visualize tumors in mice down to 2 to 5 millimeters in diameter with high molecular specificity and insignificant nanoparticle accumulation in normal tissue, we believe this technology will be at the doorway to commercial development through clinical trials,” he added.

The new prostate cancer grant follows work performed under 2005 Phase I research to define the technical requirements to develop a laboratory prototype for a transrectal probe containing both an optical illumination system and a number of wide-band ultrasonic transducers. The Phase II grant will include studies in the canine model of prostate cancer performed in collaboration with the University of Teas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas.

The optoacoustic imaging system uses laser light to create contrast between normal and cancerous tissues, and laser-induced ultrasonic waves to carry diagnostic information. According to Fairway, this hybrid technology is the only medical imaging technology with the potential to differentiate between malignant and benign tumors based on blood concentration and the oxygenation state of blood in the tumor, as well as to visualize them with high resolution (smaller than 1 mm) at tissue depths of up to 60 millimeters (~2.5 inches).