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New diagnostic techniques promise better cancer treatment

A medium-sized revolution is underway in the tumor profiling market, propelling point-of-care diagnostics, cost-effective treatment options, and personalized medicine to the fore.

The implications for the major medical device and diagnostics players are considerable. As the below graph indicates, the value of this market is expected to increase from $13 billion in 2012 to $35 billion in 2018.

Across therapeutic areas, but particularly in oncology, these pipeline technologies promise to reduce healthcare costs and the burden of disease. In many cases this is achieved by delivering earlier, more reliable diagnoses.

Breakthrough diagnostics and medical devices

One headline-grabbing example of this new wave of innovation is the recent development of a hand-held laser device that utilizes Raman spectroscopy to identify cancerous cells during operations. Researchers at McGill University in Montreal found that they could:

…detect both invasive and dense cancer cells with an accuracy of 92%. By comparison…standard surgical tools like the bright-field microscope and magnetic resonance imaging, [could identify] cancer with 73% accuracy.

Following successful trials in Canada, the technology was trialed at Charing Cross Hospital in London. Chief trial investigator Babar Vaqas remarked that:

Optical technologies like this are the future. They are fast and don’t destroy any tissue and could be used during many types of cancer surgery or when dealing with infection like a brain abscess.

Dr. Vaqas’ team at Imperial College are using another innovative product, the “iKnife”, an electro-surgical scalpel which creates smoke as it cuts through tissue. This is analyzed by a mass spectrometer to differentiate between normal and cancerous cells.

Other notable developments in this field include:

  • Agendia’s breast cancer recurrence assay MammaPrint.
  • ColoPrint - a microarray-based gene expression profile, also from Agendia.
  • Oncotype Dx - a diagnostic test that examines breast cancer patients’ tumor tissue at a molecular level to provide a personalized diagnostic profile (Genomic Health)