Enhanced Medical is a Canadian startup that is developing and commercializing intellectual property from Isis Innovation, the technology transfer arm of the University of Oxford in the UK. Professor David Edwards, principal inventor of the technology called OxEMA (Oxford Electromagnetic Acoustics) says, “Our technology uses a combination of electromagnetic and acoustic waves in order to create advanced medical images at a cost comparable to ultrasound. The benefits of this are much greater clarity of image and unparalleled tissue-type characterization when compared to ultrasound.”
Non-invasive imaging is quickly becoming an effective alternative for cancer biopsy and treatment. The OxEMA system can radically improve identification of tumours and other anomalous tissue to enable earlier diagnosis and more accurate treatment of conditions such as prostate and liver cancer. The result is more accurate, efficient and cost effective procedures, and better patient experience and outcomes.
Need or Opportunity:
Each year, 2,000 people in Canada and 700,000 people worldwide and are diagnosed with liver cancer. Globally, it is the third leading cause of cancer deaths, accounting for more than 600,000 deaths per year and rising due to increasing rates of hepatitis B and C. Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer in males worldwide. In 2014, it was estimated that 4,000 Canadian men would die from the disease.
According to Amol Karnick, Chief Executive Officer of Enhanced Medical, nearly 1 in 5 liver biopsy patients return for additional procedures using MR or CT, and 1 in 4 prostate biopsy patients receive false negative diagnoses. Both circumstances cause unnecessary anxiety in patients and require further expensive hospital visits to decisively diagnose disease.
The current standard for prostate cancer care has changed little in the past 25 years. After a prostate specific antigen (PSA) test reveals the possibility of cancer, urologists perform ultrasound-guided biopsies using 12-15 needles in a pattern-based approach generally aimed at the prostate gland as opposed to at specifically identified tumours. Traditionally, the lack of ability to target tumours has led to false negative diagnoses, which result in patients opting for overtreatment using approaches such as whole-gland removal or irradiation. The side-effects of overtreatment are impotence and incontinence, which greatly affect quality of life. A worse scenario involves undetected cancer tumours that can progress into serious disease.
Conventional ultrasound technology cannot discriminate between tissue types to identify suspicious tissue and small tumours. Therefore, improving biopsy targeting using variations on ultrasound is a significant clinical need, especially for areas that are difficult to image such as the liver and prostate, but all cancers can benefit from improved visualization technology.
The OxEMA system uses a combination of electromagnetic and acoustic waves to enhance ultrasound images with MRI-like information. Because cancer cells conduct more electricity than normal cells, they are reflected in the image contrast making suspicious regions and tumours more easily viewable by clinicians to facilitate biopsy and treatment.
Enhanced Medical was looking for a company to assist with prototype development and testing for the first commercial OxEMA system. Karnick approached CIMTEC because of its expertise in commercialization and technology development, specifically in ultrasound and MR image processing and optimization. CIMTEC was also a top choice because of its crucial connections to clinicians and laboratories, allowing Enhanced to leverage human trial data.
A long-term goal of Enhanced Medical is to eliminate the need for biopsy by developing the OxEMA system with lesion characterization capability.
Enhanced has already completed in-vivo mouse trials and ex-vivo tissue sampling, and is hoping to begin human trials using the first commercial system developed through CIMTEC.