MIT Tech Review has some new information about Z-Tech® Inc.’s breast “scanning” device, an electrical impedance technology we reported about a year ago. Although we had some reservations about the technology’s sensitivity and specificity, Tech Review is now being told by people in the company about reassuring results from a relatively large study:
A new device that screens for breast cancer by measuring electrical resistance in tissue could soon become a painless, radiation-free, and less costly alternative to mammography for women at high risk for the disease.
The company developing the technology, Z-Tech, based in Westford, MA, recently completed international trials of screening methods on 3,500 subjects at 28 different sites. A paper detailing the outcome of the two-year trial will be submitted later this year for peer review, the company says. But preliminary results indicate that the device catches more cancers and has fewer false positives than film mammography, most notably in patients younger than 50 years of age.
Steven Nakashige, chief executive officer of Z-Tech, says the company’s test works best on women with dense breast tissue, an area where mammography is generally at its weakest. The test also takes only a few minutes and doesn’t require a specially trained technician. Its simplicity, as well as the fact that it doesn’t emit the potentially harmful ionizing radiation associated with mammography x-rays, could make it an effective tool in battling this deadly and most frequently diagnosed cancer in women. “We believe this would significantly increase [screening] compliance rates, which would help detect cancers earlier,” says Nakashige. “And if you detect cancers earlier, you can reduce mortality rates.”
Some observers say that Z-Tech’s technology, while an improvement over mammography, needs to perform dramatically better if the aim is to encourage regular screening of the population at an earlier age. The worry is that false positives, even when there are fewer compared with mammography, would increase on an absolute basis. “You’re implementing something that’s guaranteed to produce X number of false alarms,” says Alexander Hartov, an expert on the medical applications of electrical impedance at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, NH. “What are the repercussions in terms of public-health cost? Is it worth doing?”
See, we are not the only skeptics here. But we wish the company well: such a noninvasive modality, if proven in clinical trials, might be a great asset to fight this terrible disease.
Full article at MIT Tech Review…