A breast cancer diagnostic startup that uses fingertip sensors to detect tumors has received a research grant of more than $878,000 to advance its handheld diagnostic device.

UE Lifesciences’ “Intelligent Breast Exam” can distinguish between normal breast tissue and a tumor. Breast cancers are stiffer and less mobile than the surrounding tissue, according to a paper documenting the device. Dr. Ari Brooks, chief of surgical oncology at the Drexel College of Medicine, said it has been particularly effective at detecting tumors in women under 40, based on the clinical trials the college of medicine has conducted.

The Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement grant will be used to advance the screening test to the final stages of development, according to a statement from Drexel.

In a pilot clinical study conducted at Drexel’s College of Medicine, the device detected nine out of 11 clinician non-palpable breast tumors and identified one invasive breast cancer that was missed on the mammogram, according to a statement from the university.

In addition to the Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement grant, the company has previously received funding from the University City Science Center’s Proof of Concept program and from the Wallace H. Coulter Foundation’s Translational Research Program at Drexel.

The Philadelphia-based diagnostics start-up licensed the technology from Drexel University in 2010. Dr. Wan Shih, who has had breast cancer herself, developed the early versions of the device as part of a research project she led at Drexel University’s School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems .

It specializes in developing automated technologies that don’t require highly skilled medical practitioners to carry out accurate tests and data analysis. Earlier this year another breast cancer detector from UE Lifescience won approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The radiation free, “No Touch Breast Scan” uses computerized, functional infrared imaging system that analyzes temperature pixels from infrared frames to identify physiologic signs of developing breast cancer, according to a company statement.

In an interview with Flying Kite Media earlier this year, UE Lifesciences CEO Mihir Shah said infared technology has been able to pinpoint tumors in cases where mammography has failed, particularly for women with dense breasts. There are 13,000 mammography centers in the U.S. but only 400 U.S. clinics offer breast thermography. Improvements and affordability of digital cameras are making thermography a more realistic alternative to traditional mammograms.

Based on the primary screening devices currently used for breast cancer detection — mammography, ultrasound and MRIs – along withbreast biopsy and genetic testing, the U.S. breast cancer detection and diagnostic technologies market was valued at more than $2.1 billion in the U.S. in 2008, and is expected to grow to more than $2.8 billion in 2013, according to data from Life Science Intelligence.

Source: MedCity News