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Low-dose breast cancer screening feasibility studied

The feasibility of a low-dose molecular breast imaging technology is beginning testing by Newcastle University, Newcastle Hospitals and Kromek UK.

30 January 2023

The feasibility of a low-dose molecular breast imaging technology is beginning testing by Newcastle University, Newcastle Hospitals and Kromek UK.

Funded by Innovate UK, two research programmes will examine the development of a low-dose molecular breast imaging (“MBI”) technology based on Kromek’s CZT-based SPECT detectors.

The first project is designed to prove the feasibility of using a single photon detector for ultra-low-dose MBI. This 18-month project, worth £0.5m, is to be carried out solely by Kromek. The second project, worth £2.0m, is a three-year programme to obtain and deliver clinical data on a low-dose MBI system. It is being conducted as a partnership of Kromek with Newcastle-upon-Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle University and University College London.

Mammography and MBI

Traditional mammography is often less able to clearly image tumours due to the density of the breast tissue. MBI uses a radioactive tracer that ‘lights up’ areas of cancer in the breast and is effective even in dense breast tissue – which is prevalent in people who are at higher risk of cancer.

However, MBI currently involves a much greater exposure to radiation than mammograms. The partners are developing a solution that uses low-dose MBI – to provide effective cancer detection with lower radiation exposure. CZT creates much clearer images and requires far lower radiation doses to do so, than comparable detectors, enabling the solution to deliver eight times less radiation than existing MBI technology.

Dr Nerys Forester, Consultant Breast Radiologist at Newcastle Hospitals, said: “Breast cancer screening is a vital part of detecting cancer early when tumours are often too small to see and saves thousands of lives in the UK each year. For women with dense breast tissue, cancer can be more difficult to detect and diagnose through routine mammograms because it is harder to see abnormal changes in the breast on imaging. We are delighted to be leading the next phase of testing low-dose MBI, working closely with Kromek and University College London. In future, we hope this technology could help us to identify breast cancer in women with dense breasts at an earlier stage and save more lives.”

Kromek is a leading supplier of radiation detection components and devices for the medical imaging, civil nuclear industry, CBRNe security and safety screening markets. Arnab Basu, CEO of Kromek Group, added: “Current routine breast screening does not meet everyone’s needs because of its shortcomings in detecting cancers in dense breast tissue, a particular concern for younger women. Low-dose molecular breast imaging, which solves this, has the capacity to save thousands more lives, detecting cancers earlier, before they have time to spread. This helps not only the patient, but also the public health authorities who can provide the right treatment earlier and, ultimately, more cost effectively. This additional funding from Innovate UK will allow us and our partners to collate the data needed to progress to clinical tests and then deployment. We look forward to working with our partners to complete the programme.”