China-developed cancer detection device gets market access

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Developed by Huazhong University of Science and Technology, the new PET represents today's cutting-edge medical imaging technology. [Photo/]

A China-developed cutting-edge cancer detection device, which integrates positron emission tomography (PET) scans and CT scans, has been approved by national drug regulators and obtained market access earlier this month.

The equipment was developed by scientists from the Huazhong University of Science and Technology based in Wuhan, Hubei Province, after a 19-year study.

In May 2018, the National Medical Products Administration greenlighted the clinical trial, which tested its safety and effectiveness at two hospitals in Guangdong Province.

PET is a nuclear medicine functional imaging technique to observe metabolic processes in the body as an aid to the diagnosis of diseases. According to Xie Qingguo, the lead researcher, the medical device works with two scanners: the CT provides anatomical position information, while the PET provides molecular information.

"Compared with other medical imaging methods, it can help provide more accurate information in early detection and treatment of cancer and brain diseases," Xie said.

It detected metastatic cancer tumors that conventional methods failed to identify in patients who participated in the clinical trial, helping them get early treatment.

A 38-year-old male patient of Nasopharyngeal carcinoma, a head and neck cancer, was one of the first to be treated in this way.

It was believed that he had almost recovered, but on May 28, 2018, at the Sun Yat-sen University Cancer Center, he underwent the detection by the device, which found cancer cells in his scapula, ribs and femur. The cancer cells were not identified previously by other imaging methods. Due to the new findings, the patient was able to receive timely treatment.

"The digital scanner has an advantage of clear imaging, especially for organs with complicated structures," said Fan Wei, a radiologist of the hospital.

A digital PET scanner for the brain was recently installed at the First Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou. It has completed a series of tests and will be used in dealing with Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

The five-year survival rate of cancer patients in China is only 30.9 percent, much less than that in the United States. One reason behind this is delayed detection and treatment.

With the help of the device, which can discover various lesions including tumors earlier and more accurately than traditional scanners, the time it takes to discover cancer cells will be significantly reduced.

In the past, China was just a follower in developing such PET scanners which were monopolized by foreign companies.

However, the digital medical equipment is a breakthrough. "From key materials and core components to system machines, each are the result of China's innovation," said Xiao Peng, a member of the research team.

According to researchers, the high-end digital medical equipment has been granted several patents and will enter mass production soon to help more people deal with diseases.

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