Cancer detection company Imagion Biosystems (ASX: IBX) has signed a collaboration agreement with global medical technology firm Siemens Healthineers to explore the use of Imagion’s MagSense nanoparticles as a contrast agent in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedures for patients with HER2 metastatic breast cancer.
The deal will allow Siemens to work with Imagion on the identification of optimal MRI scanning protocols for MagSense nanoparticles targeting the HER2 gene, which plays a pivotal role in the development of breast cancer.
The collaboration follows a World Molecular Imaging conference presentation in September, where Imagion demonstrated the nanoparticles could be used as an MRI agent, and will allow the company to further explore MRI as a commercial pathway.
Contrast agents are chemical substances used to enhance MRI images and improve resolution and diagnosis.
Most currently-used agents act in a generalised way, creating shades of contrast at tissue boundaries and limited differentiation between benign and malignant tumours.
Imagion believes a targeted MagSense nanoparticle could be used to enhance MRIs of specific diseased tissue, providing an accurate and non-invasive method of detecting cancer using existing technology.
MagSense is considered a safer alternative as it does not use ionising radiation, radioactive tracers or strong magnetic fields and unlike existing imaging methods, which can only identify a region of interest, the nanoparticles are designed to be detectable only when attached to cancer cells.
If there is no tumour present, the nanoparticles “relax” too quickly to be detectable and can harmlessly circulate through the body before being broken down by the liver through normal metabolic processes.
Leading cause of death
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women, with approximately 20% of primary tumour breast cancers being identified as HER2-positive.
Following initial diagnosis, cancer staging is usually conducted prior to treatment and often includes an invasive sentinel lymph node biopsy, which can put a patient at risk and result in post-operative side effects as a result of node removal.
Imagion said the ability to replace the biopsy with a non-invasive, tumour-specific, in vivo detection test such as MagSense will eliminate unneeded surgeries, improve patient lives and reduce overall healthcare costs.
Imagion executive chairman Bob Proulx said the company will investigate all opportunities to commercialise MagSense.
“Through our collaboration with the University of New Mexico, we are developing a MagSense HER2+ breast cancer test as an alternative to sentinel lymph node biopsies as our first commercial product,” he said.
Mr Proulx said the company is also keen to use its “targeted contrast agent in an MRI setting to potentially transform the way cancer is diagnosed and provide an insight into the clinical and commercial potential of our novel technology”.
In July 2019, MagSense received a Breakthrough Device designation from the US Food and Drug Administration for its potential to provide more effective treatment or diagnosis of life-threatening diseases or conditions.
At midday, shares in Imagion Biosystems were trading 18.18% higher at $0.026.