April 8, 2015
BreatheWell was part of the Incubate Winter 2014 Class.
Sydney researchers who have developed a device to improve treatment for lung cancer have received federal government funding to commercialise their invention.
A team from the University of Sydney received $588,000 from the National Health and Medical Research Council to run clinical trials of their device, which helps patients to breathe more regularly while undergoing imaging and radiotherapy.
“Every breath we take is different and unpredictable,” said project leader Paul Keall, a professor in the university’s school of medicine.
“When we’re imaging cancers that are moving due to breathing, then this irregularity causes … errors in the images that we are using to target the cancer with radiation,” Professor Keall said.
The team’s invention observes the patient’s breathing, and produces a graphical representation of their usual breathing pattern on a screen which also shows the patient’s real-time breathing. The patient watches the screen during imaging and radiotherapy and tries to emulate their observed breathing profile.
“They essentially play a game to match their current breathing signal to the target wave form which has been selected for them,” Professor Keall said.
He said helping patients to breathe in a more predictable fashion improved the accuracy or imaging, and improved the effectiveness of radiotherapy, because it increased the amount of radiation that hit the tumour. It also reduced side effects because less radiation reached healthy tissue.
The grant will enable the team to conduct trials of the device in Australia, Europe, Asia and the United States during the next 18 months and will support further product development with a view to making the device widely available.
The device is expected to improve treatment of lung, liver, pancreas and kidney cancers.
The team’s grant is one of 26 grants worth a total of $15 million being provided in the latest round to translate treatments from an idea in the lab to commercially viable products.
Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley said this work had “the potential to create new highly skilled jobs, export earnings, new companies and even new industries in the future”.
These development grants are part of $123.5 million in total funding that will also support early career researchers, and a range of collaborative projects, including partnerships with Britain’s National Institute for Health Research.
“Australia’s research sector continues to produce the knowledge, techniques and products that save lives and improve quality of life both today and for years to come,” Ms Ley said.
“It has been estimated that every $1 spent on health and medical research generates a health benefit valued at over $2.”
She said the benefits offered by medical research highlighted the importance of the government’s proposed Medical Research Future Fund. The government remains committed to the fund, despite dumping plans for a Medicare co-payment, which had been expected to provide savings that would be redirected to the fund.
March 24, 2015
Source: Dan Harrison, Sydney Morning Herald