Probe may eliminate invasive tests

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has contributed to the development of TruScan, a cervical cancer detector that could replace PAP smear tests.

The device, developed by Polartechnics Ltd, uses a pen-like probe to collect information directly from the cervix.

It then collects spectroscopic (colour) and electrical impedance information, a measure of the total opposition to the flow of an electrical current and includes resistance and capacitance, from cervical tissue.

A computer, which is attached to the probe analyses, compares information gathered to other tissue signatures that have been developed from thousands of colposcopy and biopsy evaluations. The tissue is then classified into normal and at risk groups.

CSIRO contributed to the system by developing advanced mathematical algorithms to do the analysis of the spectral and electrical data.

Victor Skladnev, MD of Polartechnics, said that clinical testing of TruScan has shown it to be at least 20 per cent more accurate than the PAP smear.

‘Because it is much more sensitive than the PAP smear – which misses about half of all cervical disease – it will certainly reduce the number of incidences of misdiagnosis,” he said.

‘The benefits for women are a less invasive test and a quicker result. This eliminates the stress of waiting for results and means that, when necessary, treatment can begin immediately,’ said Skladnev. ‘For doctors it means less time spent sending specimens to pathology labs and waiting for the results to return”.

More than 100 million women around the world visit their GP each year for a PAP smear, which is said to represent a $3 billion global industry.

The TruScan system is expected to save millions of dollars in pathology costs, since it eliminates the need to take scrapings from the cervix for assessment by pathologists.

TruScan will be released in Europe this year and on the Australian market in 2002. The US market, which accounts for half of all PAP smear tests, will follow soon after.