Funding for cancer screening

A safer way to test for early-stage breast cancer has secured new funding to further develop the technique. The new technique will enable women to be tested regularly without the fear of over-exposure to radiation, a problem with existing X-ray tests.

The new technology, which utilises a radar system developed from land mine detection, has been developed by Micrima, a University of Bristol spin-out company. Human trials of the new test will start soon.

“Compared to current methods, Micrima’s new screening technology can potentially detect breast cancer at a very early stage. It creates a better image, even through very dense tissue,” commented chief executive, Roy Johnson. “The half-million pound funding from business ‘angels’ NESTA and the SULIS seedcorn fund is a major step towards making this new screening programme available to all women.”

Alan Preece, Professor of Medical Physics at the University of Bristol and one of the lead scientists on this project, said: “Breast cancer is one of the biggest killers that women currently face. Each year there are over 41,000 new cases in the UK alone. We are very excited about this new technology and are pleased that our research findings at the University of Bristol may benefit so many women.”

This latest technology has the potential to image through dense breast tissue and will therefore reach a far wider section of women than X-ray mammography. For some women, traditional mammography can be uncomfortable, creating a disincentive to go for regular screenings.

Micrima’s screening technology does not require breast compression, making the whole process more comfortable. Breast compression for testing can also create an artificially denser tissue, making detection of small tumours more challenging.

Women under 50 in particular stand to benefit from the new test, since X-rays are less reliable at detecting cancer in this age group. Breast cancer is the largest killer of women between the ages of 35-55 in Europe.