Rutgers-Affiliated Start-Up Company Receives Funding for Technology to Help Choose Breast Cancer Treatments

Rutgers-Affiliated Start-Up Company Receives Funding for Technology to Help Choose Breast Cancer Treatments

$207,000 grant from National Institutes of Health part of federal program to encourage American businesses to engage in R&D with commercial potential

BRUNSWICK, N.J. – The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a Rutgers-affiliated
company $207,000 to develop a quick and economical analysis of tissue from breast
cancer biopsies. The technology is designed to predict how aggressive a common
form of breast cancer is likely to be, helping physicians and patients plan
effective therapies that minimize side effects.

NIH made its grant to Ibris, Inc., through the Small Business Innovation
Research program, which federal funding agencies use to encourage American
businesses to engage in research and development with commercial potential.
Ibris, Inc. is a Piscataway-based start-up company that is
negotiating a license for computerized image recognition technology developed
by Anant Madabhushi, professor of biomedical engineering in the Rutgers School
of Engineering.

year, about 120 thousand women in the U.S. and a million women worldwide are
diagnosed with ER positive breast cancer,” said Madabhushi. Those with less aggressive
forms of the disease may respond solely to hormonal therapy, typically
tamoxifen, but those with more aggressive forms will also require chemotherapy.

“By determining
how aggressive the tumor is, we can help those with less aggressive cancer
avoid chemotherapy with its side-effects and expense, and at the same time, we
can help those with more aggressive cancer get immediate access to the
treatment they need to fight the disease.”

slide image

Digital image of breast tissue from biopsy can be analyzedby computer to reveal features that indicate cancer.

technology examines a high-resolution digital image of biopsy specimens, using
computerized image analysis tools to reveal difficult-to-discern characteristics
that indicate the disease’s grades of severity. It builds on earlier research
to detect and grade prostate cancer by analyzing magnetic resonance images of
the gland.

current diagnostic procedure is for a pathologist to examine samples of
suspicious tissue to determine whether it is cancerous, and if so, classify the
type of cancer and predict its severity.

problem is, anytime you have a human being in the equation, there’s always a
question of variability,” he said. “What one observer calls aggressive, another
may not.”

noted that until less than a decade ago, oncologists would be cautious and prescribe
both hormone therapy and chemotherapy because the severity was often hard to
determine. In 2004, California-based Genomic Health introduced a test that
examined gene expression. That test accurately pegged ER+ breast cancers that
fell at the low and high ends of the severity scale. Women who scored low could
be treated confidently with hormonal therapy alone and forgo chemotherapy.

While the
test, known as Oncotype DX, became an important planning resource for
oncologists and patients, it remains expensive – upwards of $4,000. It also takes
two weeks to produce results, which for severe cancers represents a loss of valuable
treatment time.

“In 2007,
an oncologist at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Shridar Ganesan, saw our
work on prostate cancer imaging and asked if my lab could apply it to
ER-positive breast cancers,” said Madabhushi, who is also a member of The
Cancer Institute of New Jersey. “So we applied these techniques and started to
get very exciting results. We found that our image-based risk score, which we
dubbed ‘Ibris,’ was in agreement with the Oncotype DX score almost 90 percent
of the time.”

funded by the NIH grant, made through the agency’s National Institute for
Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, will establish how well Ibris scores
predict long-term patient outcomes. If successful, an Ibris test could deliver
results to patients almost immediately and cut costs to patients and their

benefits could be even more dramatic in developing countries, claims
Madabhushi, where the Oncotype DX cost is prohibitive and sending samples to California
can add weeks to the testing interval.

Ibris, a doctor in Mumbai could prepare a tissue sample, digitize it, and
upload it to a server where the Ibris technology analyzes it and prepares a
report within hours.”

Inc. was formed in 2010 by Madabhushi and James Monaco, an assistant research
professor in Madabhushi’s lab. Scott Doyle, who earned his doctorate under
Madabhushi in April of 2011, recently joined the company as vice president of
research. Ganesan is serving as the clinical principal investigator from the
University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. Doctoral
student Ajay Basavanhally contributed to Ibris technology development. Pathologists Michael
Feldman and John Tomaszewski from the Hospital of the University of
Pennsylvania have helped with data and annotations.

credits the Rutgers Office of Technology Commercialization for assistance in licensing
the technology and creating Ibris, Inc. He also credits the university’s Center
for Innovative Ventures of Emerging Technologies (CIVET) for helping to arrange
early-stage funding for the start-up company and business plan assistance from
the Rutgers Business School.

Media Contact: Carl Blesch
732-932-7084, ext. 616