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Prism and Medical College of Wisconsin investigators receive $1.6 million NIH grant to develop advanced medical imaging tools

Grant to help expand patient access to cutting edge technology

Medical College of Wisconsin

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IMAGE: The top MRI brain image shows a tumor surrounded with red, orange, yellow and green rings of normal tissue considered risk zones that could lead to neurological damage if removed. view more

Credit: Prism

Prism Clinical Imaging, Inc., in collaboration with investigators at The Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, has received a $1.6 million, three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop and clinically validate advanced medical imaging software that aids the diagnosis and treatment of patients with brain cancer.

"This project will allow us to refine and validate new methods for mapping brain function with MRI and for displaying the results in an intuitive format that greatly simplifies interpretation by the physician," said Edgar DeYoe, Ph.D., principal investigator, professor of radiology at the Medical College, and a co-founder of the company.

"Through Prism, we have developed software that gives physicians anatomical, functional and physiological image sequences in a single integrated view referred to as a "stack", similar to playing cards in a deck. We've also created a new display, a Functional Field Map, that instantly shows what the brain images mean for the patient's vision and movement abilities. This allows surgeons to identify and avoid areas of the brain that may be essential for movement, vision, and other functions, thereby permitting removal of as much of a tumor as possible without impairing a patient's brain function."

This multi-institutional grant includes researchers at Cleveland Clinic and Radiology Associates of Sacramento. At present, the new software is used primarily by research and academic institutions such as Froedtert Hospital, a major teaching affiliate of the Medical College of Wisconsin. Together the three sites hope to recruit 50 patients per year to the study.

Earlier studies have shown advantages of the functional field map for clinical use and commercialization. By further validating its potential in a controlled patient study, it will serve as a powerful tool to aid diagnosis, treatment planning, and follow-up assessment for virtually any brain pathology, especially cancer. The NIH grant will fund advanced development of this imaging technology in a program designed to promote commercial application of promising healthcare technologies. Prism is participating in the program in the effort to further develop its imaging technology and move it from research institutions like Froedtert and the Medical College into hospitals and clinics worldwide. Moving the technology into wider application at mainstream hospitals and clinics across the country will give a greater number of patients access to a technology that could significantly improve the outcomes of their cancer treatment.

"This type of technology is revolutionizing the treatment of brain cancer patients," said John Ulmer, M.D., associate professor of radiology. "Since it was developed here at the Medical College and Froedtert, we have surgeons and radiologists with extensive experience using this technology. Clinical data accumulated over the past three years shows that patients undergoing brain tumor surgery at Froedtert have a significantly better chance of avoiding neurological side effects than the national average." Ulmer is also a co-founder of Prism.

The grant was funded through the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program at the NIH. The STTR program is intended to stimulate partnerships between innovative small business concerns and non-profit research institutions through federally funded research and development. "This NIH program is crucial for translating new technologies from laboratory curiosities into practical products that can be used routinely by doctors. It also is a real shot in the arm for small high-tech companies, especially in the current economic environment," said Dr. DeYoe.

"Development of advanced medical imaging technology is a high-tech specialty for academic and industrial groups in southeastern Wisconsin," said Paul Schmelzer, Prism chief executive officer. "This area has become an incubator for this type of advanced technology because of the concentration of scientific and business expertise in medical imaging in the greater Milwaukee area. "Building on this expertise, Froedtert Hospital and The Medical College of Wisconsin have become a primary focus for the development and dissemination of advanced healthcare options for residents of Milwaukee and the upper Midwest," Schmelzer added.

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