EM Imaging obtains license for fluorescence imaging agent that detects bowel cancer early

Edinburgh Molecular Imaging (EM Imaging; Edinburgh, Scotland) has signed an exclusive global license for a novel fluorescence imaging agent that could improve the detection of early-stage colorectal (bowel) cancer.

Related: 'Painting' tumors to guide cancer surgery

The company signed the licensing agreement with medical imaging systems maker GE Healthcare (Wilmington, MA). Now, EM Imaging will complete development of the EMI-137 imaging agent that can help doctors identify bowel cancer early.

EMI-137 is a water-soluble compound consisting of a 26–amino acid cyclic peptide, conjugated to a fluorescent cyanine dye, that binds to human tyrosine kinase c-Met, a receptor frequently overexpressed during cancer growth. EMI-137 has the potential on intravenous administration to image a wide range of cancers, including breast cancer, esophageal cancer, ovarian cancer, thyroid cancer, bile duct carcinoma, and lung cancer, because it specifically targets the c-Met receptor.

In a recent study, the EMI-137 agent allowed doctors to see more early-stage colorectal cancer (CRC) and precancerous tumors, which can then easily be removed via colonoscopy. However, screening with a colonoscope, which is currently the most common method, can miss up to 25% of precancerous growths, especially smaller, flat lesions. Dr. James Hardwick, the lead investigator on the study, said that they detected 47 precancerous polyps in the study, but 12 were missed using a standard colonoscope.

Fluorescence colonoscopy in patients receiving intravenous EMI-137 enabled visualization of all neoplastic polyps that were visible with white light, and detected previously missed polyps that were not visible with white light alone. This enables the detection of polyps missed by other techniques.

Ian Wilson, CEO of EM Imaging, says that the company will continue to explore EMI-137's utility in visualizing tumors during surgery, with additional studies planned to begin before the end of 2015.

Full details of the recent study appear in the journal Nature Medicine; for more information, please visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nm.3641.

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