NRC inks deal for cancer diagnostics

A developing technology could soon help detect lung cancer inits earliest stages.

Perceptronix Medical Inc. has signed acontribution agreement with the National Research Council Canada (NRC) insupport of their ClearVu Elite advanced fluorescence bronchoscopysystem.

Vancouver-based Perceptronix is a private cancer diagnostics company, a spin off of the B.C.Cancer agency.

The $95,000 in funding is being provided by the NRC’s IndustrialResearch Assistance Program, which works with Canadian SMEs toprovide a variety of technical and business focused advisoryservices and financial support.

The money from the NRC will cover the local Perceptronixresearchers who are conducting data analysis and modeling forclinical trials, according to David Garner, vice-president and CSO,Perceptronix.

A bronchoscopy is a procedure in which a cylindrical fiberopticscope is inserted into the airways. The scope contains a viewingdevice that allows the visual examination of the lower airways.Fluorescence bronchoscopy uses fluorescent light in thebronchoscope to detect precancerous cells.

The procedure has been around for about 15 years, Garnersaid.

“It was actually invented by the B.C. Cancer Agency,” he said.”It’s used for lung cancer detection, for the very early orpre-invasive stage — you don’t need it for more advanced lungcancer than that.”

If successful it is technology that is sorely needed becausecurrent technologies only detect the cancer when the morbidity ishigh 80 per cent, according to Christopher Ryan, NRC-IRAP’s pacificregion executive director.

“Detection of lung cancer is problematic,” said Ryan.”(Perceptronix) hopes to lower the detection threshold considerablythus increasing the chances of effective treatment.”

According to Health Canada an estimated 153,100 new cases ofcancer and 70,400 deaths from cancer will occur in Canada in 2006.The leading cause of cancer death for both sexes continues to belung cancer.

Garner said that the technology is still in the developmentstage and is now in the equivalent of a phase two clinical study ortrial.

“We’re at the stage of really proving that it works,” hesaid.

Garner estimated the trial will be completed by the end of theyear, and that the system should hit the market in about twoyears.

Ryan said that successful completion and commercialization byPerceptronix could potentially be a great success story.

“It would have a great health impact in Canada and alsoglobally,” he said. “The potential success is one of the reasonsthe NRC supported this project.”