Breast cancer test wins prestigious innovation in engineering award
Press release issued: 18 October 2006
An early-stage breast cancer test has won a global award for innovation in the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) annual Innovation Engineering Awards.
Micrima, a University of Bristol spin-out company, won the Electronics award for a technique which will enable women to be tested regularly without the fear of over-exposure to radiation, a problem with existing X-ray tests.
The technique utilises an innovative radar system developed from land mine detection by a team at Bristol University led by Dr Ian Craddock, Reader in Electrical & Electronic Engineering. The project is founded on Professor Ralph Benjamin's pioneering work on microwave focusing. He was brought to Bristol by Professor Joe McGeehan who also supported early joint work on cancer detection by Electrical Engineering and the UBHT.
The judges felt that the invention provided reliable results, was a cost effective instrument and minimised both traumatic false alarms and x-ray exposure to patients.
The technology has the potential to image through dense breast tissue and will therefore reach a far wider section of women than X-ray mammography. For some women, traditional mammography can be uncomfortable, creating a disincentive to go for regular screenings.
Micrima’s screening technology does not require breast compression, making the whole process more comfortable. Breast compression for testing can also create an artificially denser tissue, making detection of small tumours more challenging.
Alan Preece, Professor of Medical Physics at the University and one of the lead scientists on this project, said: “Breast cancer is one of the biggest killers that women currently face. Each year there are over 41,000 new cases in the UK alone.
“We are delighted with the award. The award reflects not only the hard work of the many people who have contributed to the project, but also the potential humanitarian benefits of the research.”
Roy Johnson, Chief Executive of Micrima, added: “While we have some challenges ahead before this opportunity can be fully realised, this award speaks volumes to both the individual and team contributions that have enabled it to stand out from the crowd.”
Women under 50 in particular stand to benefit from the new test, since X-rays are less reliable at detecting cancer in this age group. Breast cancer is the largest killer of women between the ages of 35-55 in Europe.