A joint startup company from the University of Houston and University College London recently made it to the final cut of this year’s 2015 Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award, the most prestigious and long-established recognition for innovators in the field of engineering in the United Kingdom. The MacRobert Award’s conception in 1969 has led to the discovery of countless groundbreaking solutions to some of the world’s most pressing concerns.
Cambridge-based startup cancer care company, Endomag was co-founded by associate professor of physics Audrius Brazdeikis together with UH’s Texas Center for Superconductivity, and is known for its innovative medical device system designed to enhance breast cancer diagnosis — the Sentimag probe. It makes the diagnosis of the spread of breast cancer possible without the need for radioactive tracers.
“The current standard of care in breast cancer surgery demands that a sentinel lymph node biopsy be performed. The procedure is traditionally guided by injections of radioisotope tracers and use of a gamma probe to locate the lymph node with the highest radioactivity,” said Brazdeikis. “Our collaborative research effort has resulted in developing a handheld magnetic probe that can be used in conjunction with a magnetic tracer to locate the sentinel lymph node quickly and easily for biopsy in breast cancer patients.”
The Sentimag probe boasts enhanced sensitivity and combines Sienna+ tracer nanotechnology and advanced magnetic sensors, allowing radiation-free and speedier diagnoses of breast cancer spread. Brazdeikis explains, “The Sentimag enables intraoperative, real-time localization of the sentinel lymph node, which is the first lymph node to which a tumor’s metastasizing cancer cells drain, as well as being the most likely to harbor metastases that can also spread to other parts of the body. The system’s technology is not limited only to breast cancer and is already being used for other cancer indications, such as melanoma, prostate and thyroid. Other potential indications include lung and colorectal cancer staging.”
Brazdeikis adds that Sentimag’s incorporated magnetic tracer is much safer than traditional radioactive tracers, and has a longer shelf life. Because it is radiation-free, staff administering the test no longer worry about their safety, and the added precautions of having to dispose of radioactive waste.
Today, Sentimag is available in 18 countries across Europe, and has effectively guided over 6,000 patients’ surgeries. In five medical centers across Texas, California, and Pennsylvania, Endomag has begun conducting clinical trials under an Investigational Device Exemption granted January 2015. This leg of Sentimag’s research will involve 180 patients in order to establish its safety and effectiveness according to US standards.
Endomag’s CEO, Eric Mayes said, “With two of our clinical trial sites in Texas and our University of Houston roots, establishing our first U.S. office in Texas was a natural decision. From our strong cross-Atlantic foundations, we expect to build a significant commercial presence in Texas to help bring a better standard of care for all across the U.S.”
Endomag will now vie for a gold medal and £50,000 ($77,500). The winner of the MacRobert Award will be revealed July 16 during the Royal Academy of Engineering’s yearly awards dinner in London.