Infrared Sciences, a Stony Brook, NY-based company focused on early breast-cancer detection, is seeking $5 million in fourth-round financing, to further advance its Sentinel BreastScan technology.
Unlike mammography, ultrasound or MRI, which detect anatomical features such as a mass, the Sentinel BreastScan uses infrared technology to identify physiological features of the breast tissue — areas of blood perfusion and angiogenesis, when abnormal cells begin forming their own blood supply, as well as temperature signs — that are often present at the earliest stages of cancer. Studies have shown that angiogenesis can start 10-12 years before a cancerous lesion is large enough to be detected by conventional technologies.
A Sentinel BreastScan procedure takes about 10 minutes and does not involve any compression or touching of the breast. The patient sits in a chair disrobed from the waist up, with her arms on the armrests. In front of the patient is the Sentinel system, which includes an infrared camera, a cool air source, a video display so the patient can see her own infrared image in real time, and the operator’s station. Once the exam begins, the patient’s thermal images will be recorded for analysis. A few seconds later, the cool air source comes on for approximately 3-4 minutes. At this point, the system’s software analyzes the recorded images for possible abnormalities. This part takes about 4-5 minutes, after which a report is generated.
Another advantage of the Sentinel system over traditional screening tools is that it involves no radiation, making it a viable option for women of all ages — typically, women do not start getting mammograms until age 40, to avoid exposure to radiation. The Sentinel also has proven effective in the 30-40% of women with dense breast tissue, for whom mammography is suboptimal. It does not respond to benign conditions, such as a cyst or fibro adenoma, which helps physicians more accurately determine next steps for suspicious legions.
The Sentinel BreastScan was cleared by FDA in 2004 and in Europe in 2006. It costs $50,000, but Infrared Sciences is currently offering it for free, as a method of introducing the technology quickly. The company is targeting primary care docs, OB/GYNs, breast surgeons and comprehensive breast centers.
Infrared Sciences started generated revenues in 2006, and CEO Tom DiCicco says, “Profitability is within sight.”