Philips highlights innovative research in medical imaging, image-guided drugs delivery and critical infectious diseases' care

Eindhoven 26 February 2009Royal Philips Electronics has issued the first 3D imaging results obtained with a new imaging technology called Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI). The company is also leading SonoDrugs, a major new European project to develop drug delivery technologies that could significantly impact the treatment of cancer and cardiovascular disease. In addition, Immunetrics Inc. has entered into a joint development agreement with Philips to explore future-generation approaches to the problem of infectious disease in critical care.


Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI) technology, which uses the magnetic properties of iron-oxide nanoparticles injected into the bloodstream, has been used in a pre-clinical study to generate unprecedented real-time images of arterial blood flow and volumetric heart motion. This represents a major step forward in taking Magnetic Particle Imaging from a theoretical concept to an imaging tool to help improve diagnosis and therapy planning for many of the world's major diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer. The results of the pre-clinical study were published in volume 54, issue 5 of Physics in Medicine and Biology (2009).

"A novel non-invasive cardiac imaging technology is required to further unravel and characterize the disease processes associated with atherosclerosis, in particular those associated with vulnerable plaque formation which is a major risk factor for stroke and heart attacks", stated Professor Valentin Fuster, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Mount Sinai Heart Center, New York. "Through its combined speed, resolution and sensitivity, Magnetic Particle Imaging technology has great potential for this application, and the latest in-vivo imaging results represent a major breakthrough."

"We are the first in the world to demonstrate that Magnetic Particle Imaging can be used to produce real-time in-vivo images that accurately capture cardiovascular activity", stated Henk van Houten, senior vice president of Philips Research and head of the health care research programme. "By adding important functional information to the anatomical data obtained from existing modalities such as CT and MR, Philips' MPI technology has the potential to significantly help in the diagnosis and treatment planning of major diseases such as atherosclerosis and congenital heart defects."

Philips' Magnetic Particle Imaging uses the magnetic properties of injected iron-oxide nanoparticles to measure the nanoparticle concentration in the blood. Because the human body contains no naturally occurring magnetic materials visible to MPI, there is no background signal. After injection, the nanoparticles therefore appear as bright signals in the images, from which nanoparticle concentrations can be calculated. By combining high spatial resolution with short image acquisition times (as short as 1/50th of a second), Magnetic Particle Imaging can capture dynamic concentration changes as the nanoparticles are swept along by the blood stream. This could ultimately allow MPI scanners to perform a wide range of functional cardiovascular measurements in a single scan. These could include measurements of coronary blood supply, myocardial perfusion, and the heart's ejection fraction, wall motion and flow speeds.

The results obtained from Philips' experimental MPI scanner mark an important step towards the development of a whole-body system for use on humans. Some of the technical challenges in scaling up the system relate to the magnetic field generation required for human applications. Others lie in the measurement and processing of the extremely weak signal emitted by the nanoparticles. Signal measurement and processing are areas where Philips has a great deal of proven expertise and experience that it is currently applying to the task.

The scientific article "Three-dimensional real-time in vivo magnetic particle imaging" published in volume 54 of Physics in Medicine and Biology (2009) can be downloaded via the Institute of Physics website.

By allowing drugs to be delivered to disease sites via the patient's bloodstream and then activated by focused ultrasound pulses, the SonoDrugs project aims to maximize the therapeutic efficiency and minimize the side effects of drug treatments for cancer and cardiovascular disease. The project, which involves a total of fifteen industrial partners, university medical centres and academic institutions from throughout the European Union (EU), will run for four years and has a budget of 15,9 million euro, 10,9 million euro of which is being funded under the EU's 7th Framework programme.

The SonoDrugs consortium consists of the industrial partners Philips, The Netherlands, Germany and Finland, Nanobiotix, France, and Lipoid, Germany; the university medical centres Erasmus Medical Center, The Netherlands and Universitäts Klinikum Münster, Germany; and the academic institutions University of Cyprus, Cyprus, University of Gent, Belgium, University of Helsinki, Finland, University of London, United Kingdom, University of Tours, France, University Victor Segalen Bordeaux, France, University of Technology Eindhoven, The Netherlands, and the University of Udine, Italy.

Cardiovascular disease and cancer are currently the two biggest killers in the world. Although powerful drugs are available to treat certain types of cancer and cardiovascular disease they are mostly administered as intravenous or oral doses. This allows only very limited control over the distribution of drugs in the body, which can circulate in the patient's bloodstream and interact with many different tissues and organs, both diseased and healthy. The SonoDrugs project aims to address this challenge by developing drug delivery vehicles that can be tracked by ultrasound or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and triggered by ultrasound to release the drugs at the desired location. It is hoped that such control of the drug delivery process will increase therapeutic efficiency and minimize side effects, while also providing a means of tailoring the therapy to individual patients.

"New therapeutic options such as externally triggered local drug release at the specific site of disease hold the promise to significantly improve patient care", stated Henk van Houten, senior vice president of Philips Research and head of Philips' health care research programme. "We realize that medical imaging technologies are only one of the enablers required to fulfill this promise. However, the wide-ranging expertise that has been brought together in the SonoDrugs project puts us in a strong position to ultimately deliver the benefits of image-guided drug delivery to patients and care providers."

In attempting to realize its objective, the SonoDrugs project will take a two-pronged approach: the first is based on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) guidance and the second is based on ultrasound guidance. The project's research on MRI-guided drug delivery will largely be targeted at potential treatments for cancer. The SonoDrugs project aims to develop MRI techniques to simultaneously image the patient's anatomy, detect the arrival of MRI-labeled drug-loaded particles at the disease site, measure the local heating effect of the ultrasound pulses, and monitor the temperature triggered release of drugs from the particles.

For potential applications in the treatment of cardiovascular disease, the project will focus on the use of ultrasound as the primary imaging modality as well as the means of releasing drugs from pressure sensitive microbubbles. Philips Research is at the forefront of research into the drug delivery potential of microbubbles by adapting existing microbubble technology so that microbubbles can deliver precise doses of drugs exactly where they might be needed in the body.

The partnership with Immunetrics Inc. unites Philips' strength in patient monitoring and the design and implementation of applications to help clinicians make more informed care decisions, and Immunetrics' strengths in the dynamic modelling and simulation of complex biological systems. Under the joint development agreement, Philips Research and Immunetrics will study the combination of advanced bio-informatics and computer modelling to identify opportunities to reduce the incidence and improve the management of systemic infection, a major complicating factor among many critically ill patients. The announcement was made at the annual Congress of the Society of Critical Care Medicine, taking place January 31 to February 4, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. Philips currently owns a 29 percent stake in Immunetrics, a biosimulation company based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.

Critical care is a branch of medicine that involves the specialized treatment of patients with acute, life-threatening illness or injury. It is an area of persistent unmet need and significant consumption of health care resources. For example, critical care expense in the USA represents the equivalent of nearly one percent of its gross domestic product.

Sepsis, a life-threatening, systemic inflammatory response to infection, is an example of a key medical challenge for which Philips Research and Immunetrics seek to develop new mechanisms for early and effective intervention. In the USA and Europe sepsis afflicts more than two million people each year and incidence of the condition is growing. Despite the best currently available treatment, approximately one in every three patients with severe sepsis will die.

"The management of the condition of critical care patients involves the monitoring and control of a multitude of parameters, a field in which Philips has a leading position. Yet, we see patient outcomes that are frequently unpredictable and sub-optimal", stated Henk van Houten. "Through our collaboration with Immunetrics, a leader in computational modelling of pathophysiology and treatment, we will broaden our portfolio of research approaches directed to assessing infection risk and optimizing intervention, with the goal of improving the quality of care and reducing the mortality of critically ill patients."

"Immunetrics is excited to team with Philips Research and its significant technology resources with the goal of advancing patient care across the acute care setting", stated Steven Chang, president and CEO of Pittsburgh-based Immunetrics. "This collaboration recognizes the potential of bioinformatics and computational modelling in providing breakthrough solutions to enable clinicians to improve the assessment, care and outcomes of patients."

Immunetrics is a biosimulation company, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, that creates custom computational models of biological systems to accelerate the development of drugs and diagnostics. Using a proprietary platform, Immunetrics rapidly develops and validates models for identifying biomarkers and testing the effects of medical intervention at the molecular, cellular, organ, organism, and population levels, including the design of clinical trials. Immunetrics was founded in 2002 by LaunchCyte LLC and has been funded by Innovation Works, the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, and other investors.

Royal Philips Electronics of The Netherlands is a diversified Health and Well-being company, focused on improving people's lives through timely innovations. As a world expert in health care, lifestyle and lighting, Philips integrates technologies and design into people-centric solutions, based on fundamental customer insights and the brand promise of "sense and simplicity". Headquartered in The Netherlands, Philips employs approximately 121.000 employees in more than 60 countries worldwide. With sales of 26 billion euro in 2008, the company is a market specialist in cardiac care, acute care and home health care, energy efficient lighting solutions and new lighting applications, as well as lifestyle products for personal well-being and pleasure with strong leadership positions in flat TV, male shaving and grooming, portable entertainment and oral health care. More company news is available in the VMW February 2009 article Tawam Hospital goes live with Philips iSite Radiology Image and Information Management System.

Source: Philips

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