Northern Ontario Business: Lakehead U researcher receives grant for new breast cancer detection system

A Lakehead University scientist seeking to commercialize a breast cancer detection device has been awarded $448,000 by the Canadian Cancer Society to continue her research.

The grant allows Dr. Alla Reznik of Thunder Bay to spend the next three years developing the Positron Emission Mammography (PEM), molecular imaging equipment and a new method of diagnosing breast cancer that may detect lesions earlier than mainstream methods.

“Although X-ray mammography remains the gold standard of breast cancer screening, there is increasing awareness of a large cohort of women for whom anatomical X-ray imaging has reduced sensitivity,” said Reznik, a physics professor and researcher at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute, in a Jan. 14 university news release.

“This includes women with dense breasts and women with known intermediate and high risk factors for breast cancer.”

The first clinical prototype of the PEM system is assembled and it’s now at the University Health Network-Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, in Toronto, awaiting clinical trials.

“This project will add advanced capabilities to the current PEM prototype, using data from our pilot studies as a guide,” Reznik added.

“The next-generation device will have a better dynamic range to allow for a wide array of clinical tasks – ranging from low-dose screening to high-dose treatment follow-up – and will be tested in multiple clinical centres in Canada and the United States to prepare data to support wide-spread deployment.”

In thanking the Canadian Cancer Society, Lakehead’s vice-president of research and innovation Andrew Dean expects Reznik’s innovative work to benefit women worldwide.

“Grants such as these are extremely important so that fundamental research can lead to better health outcomes for women,” he said.

Hospital and Health Research Institute CEO Jean Bartkowiak called Reznik a “key contributor to our health research program that is vital to advancing our academic mission and even more importantly, to improving the health of the population.”

Cancer Society vice-president of research, Dr. Judy Bray, said with one in eight women expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetime, “there is a need for more accurate and sensitive screening methods so that we can detect and treat the cancer earlier.”

Last November, Reznik’s research colleague, Oleksandr Bubon, received an outstanding commercialization award from Mitacs, a federal not-for-profit organization that promotes innovation in solving business challenges through academic research.

The PEM system was recognized as a “breakthrough” technology in breast cancer detection.

PEM is the cornerstone asset that they’ve developed for Radialis Medical, a spinoff company that’s a joint venture between Lakehead University and the research institute.

Bubon and Reznik co-founded the company in February 2016.

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