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  • Imaging Startup Gets NIH Grant
May 2005
ROCHESTER, N.Y., May 13 -- Koning Corp., a Rochester-based imaging startup, announced it has received a $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to build a cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) scanner for the early diagnosis of breast cancer, image-guided therapeutics and breast cancer screening.

Koning is working with local electronic component companies to build the first CBCT scanner prototype. Ruola Ning, PhD, founder of Koning and a professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Radiology, said CBCT has the potential to consistently find tumors before they become incurable.

"Small disease is curable disease," Ning said. "In pre-clinical trials, cone beam CT detected with certainty tumors between one and two millimeters in diameter, while standard mammography had trouble accurately detecting tumors ten times that size."

When a malignant tumor reaches about 2 mm, two deadly events occur: angiogenesis and metastasis. Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels that supply the nutrients tumors need to grow. With the newly formed vessels in place, cancer cells that break away from the tumor can circulate through the body to "seed" cancer elsewhere (metastasis). Conventional mammography spots a tumor at 11 millimeters in diameter on average. The problem, Ning said, is that mammography attempts to capture the image of a 3-D object on a 2-D detector. In the resulting images, small tumors located in the middle of the breast may be lost among the overlapping layers of healthy tissue above and below.

Ning said CBCT eliminates structural overlap for a clearer view of early tumors. At the same time, the prototype machine captures images by rotating around the breast, not by flattening or compressing it, as in conventional mammography.

Koning's CBCT system includes an ergonomic exam table that isolates the breast, a novel cone beam x-ray source, a detector that captures more information as it circles the breast and software that allows for better 3-D imaging. Ning said his apparatus also achieves the improved imaging at or below the radiation dose used in conventional mammography.

The improved 3-D accuracy and lower radiation seen with CBCT may also help to realize the potential of image-guided therapeutics or surgery, Koning said. In the future, highly accurate scans may enable surgeons to instantly confirm that a surgery has succeeded.

Excell Partners Inc. (formerly University Technology Partners Inc.) and the URMC Office of Technology Transfer have worked closely with Ning to begin commercializing CBCT. URMC invested $300,000 to provide CBCT patents and licensed the technology to Koning to make, use and sell CBCT scanners. Excell, a non-profit corporation formed to help URMC researchers start businesses, announced this week it will invest an additional $25,000 in Koning for business strategy development.

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