Every year, foundations for breast cancer awareness tout the importance of getting a mammogram for early detection and prevention of this deadly disease. But for women in other parts of the world who may not have easy access to health care, a treatment requiring expensive x-ray equipment may not be practical. As a breast cancer survivor herself,
Associate Professor Dr. Wan Shih has watched women from her home continent of Asia suffer from late detection and low survival rates with great interest. She and her team now believe they have a better way.
Citing shortcomings and false-positives of mammogram technology, Dr. Shih and her team created a tissue scanner able to detect cancerous tissue outside of the clinician's office. The scanner detects hardened or dense tissue that may be cancerous, even in women under 40 who may have denser breasts. Earlier this month, Drexel's portable breast cancer scanner
project took a big step toward
commercialization, signing a licensing agreement with Philadelphia-based
"In India or China, mammography is for diagnostics, not for screening," says Dr. Shih. "So when women are brought to do mammography, they have already found a lump and, by that time, it may be too late."
The project was selected as one of the inaugural projects for the University City Science Center's QED program
, a proof-of-concept development grant that helps academic researchers reach the marketplace. After receiving $200,000 from the QED Program and additional support from the Wallace H.
Coulter Translational Research Program at Drexel, the device caught the attention of UE LifeSciences, a company dedicated to increasing early detection of breast cancer.
"This product uses no radiation, it is inexpensive and can be brought to women in developing countries," says Dr. Shih. "Traditionally women feel for breast lumps but this product is more sensitive than human hands. Our goal is to get more women in for testing sooner."
Dr. Wan Shih, Drexel UniversityWriter: