One small country is making big gains in fighting breast cancer
Learn about the advancements and research happening that could save lives around the world.
Will we one day be able to burn – or freeze – cancerous breast tumors out of existence? What about a vaccine that prevents cancer from coming back? A Breathalyzer that sniffs out tumors? A blood test that can detect the disease before a mammogram can?
These are all real possibilities in the world of breast technology. And they're all happening right now in Israel.
Much attention has been paid to medical technology in Israel lately. After all, it's not called the Startup Nation for nothing: Israel is considered a world leader in tech companies, boasting more than 6,000 startups and a highly skilled labor force.
So it's fitting that this country of 8 million people has become a worldwide leader in breast tech. Here are some of the many innovations coming out of Israel that are shaping the field.
Burning and freezing tumors away
InSighTech, an ultrasound manufacturer out of the coastal Mediterranean city of Haifa, is working on a microwave-powered device that's used to zero in on deeper parts of breast tissue and burn tumors away. It already has a system called ExAblate that uses ultrasound technology to heat and destroy tissue in patients with uterine fibroids.
"If they can focus that beam on deeper parts of tissue, we might be able to burn tumors from breasts," Shai Melcer, executive director of life-sciences hub BioJerusalem, told Ozy.
You might be hearing more about this company in the near future; it just scored an investment with GE Healthcare.
Then there's IceCure Medical, a medical device company in Caesarea that has a minimally invasive procedure that uses extremely cold temperatures to destroy targeted benign breast tumors. The company is currently conducting clinical trials to use their procedure as a non-surgical alternative for breast cancer.
Vaccinating against recurrence
An immunotherapeutic drug called ImMucin is currently being used by multiple myeloma patients, and may eventually have potential for breast cancer as well. It might be the closest thing to an anti-cancer vaccine. Developed by Israel-based Vaxil Bio, the drug received "orphan" status by the FDA last year, which means it has significant treatment potential against rare, life-threatening diseases.
ImMucin works to delay the recurrence of multiple myeloma and, as Vaxil CEO Dr. Lior Carmen says, "turn their cancer into a chronic manageable disease."
Diagnosing cancer in one breath
Researchers in Israel are putting their nanotechnology expertise to good use as they study ways to detect cancer through a simple breath test. A system called NA-NOSE resembles a Breathalyzer, but when you blow into it, it detects volatile organic compounds, which can then be used to identify the presence of diseases. That's called diagnostic breath testing, and it's less expensive and less invasive than traditional diagnostic techniques like CT scans and biopsies.
In NA-NOSE's case, Professor Hossam Haick of Israel's Technion Institute of Technology has focused its potential on the diagnosis of lung cancer, but he says the device can also distinguish "between subtypes of cancer."
With breast augmentation surgery increasing, so does the need to design products and use materials that make breast implants safer, lighter and more durable. Two Israeli innovations are working toward this goal. One is Orbix, an internal mesh bra that attaches itself to the ribs and produces a better lift. It's said to last longer than a traditional breast lift and produce less scarring.
Another is ImpLite, a gel-free, ultra-light implant developed by plastic surgeon Dr. Ami Glicksman. He's trying to ensure that his products are "the light, dry, non-leaking and long-lasting implant of first choice to replace older implants." Both products are still under development.
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