GE Healthcare and Qatar Science and Technology Park to research advanced technologies for breast cancer detection

Doha 13 June 2009GE Healthcare, the health care business of General Electric Company, and Qatar Science & Technology Park (QSTP) have entered into a research & development programme related to advanced technologies for the early detection of breast cancer. Capitalizing on GE's strong existing partnership with QSTP, Qatar Foundation's research accelerator, the goal of the joint research programme is to develop new and innovative technologies for screening and diagnosis of breast cancer using the latest developments in digital X-ray mammography.


According to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the world. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer among women in the Arab countries and accounting for 13-35 percent of all female cancers. Significantly, there is an emerging regional trend of younger women being diagnosed with breast cancer; almost 50 percent of women diagnosed are below age 50, with a median age of 49-53 years, compared with a median age of 63 in industrialized nations. This has important implications for the diagnosis of breast cancer, as breast tissue tends to be denser in younger women, making early detection more difficult. Across the region, locally advanced disease is very common and total mastectomy (breast removal) is the most commonly performed surgery.

GE Healthcare plans to establish a new breast cancer team at QSTP in Doha, Qatar, which will accelerate innovation breakthroughs in a proven system, and is in addition to its activities worldwide. Based at GE's Advanced Technology & Research Centre in QSTP in Doha, the team will form an integral part of GE Healthcare's global mammography development organisation. The research programme will include the identification and validation of new and advanced mammography technologies, the development of new software interfaces and the performance of clinical trials. Products developed from this programme will be sold by GE Healthcare globally.

Dr. Tidu Maini, Executive Chairman of Qatar Science & Technology Park, stated: "QSTP aims to host leading medical research that would contribute to the national strategy for knowledge economy. Our partnership with GE Healthcare is a step towards making Qatar a global medical innovator while delivering real health benefits for the local community."

The State of Qatar continues to increase efforts in fighting cancer through awareness and screening programmes in conjunction with the Qatar National Cancer Society and Al Amal Hospital, the primary cancer specialty centre of the leading health care provider, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC). The programmes focus heavily on awareness and prevention of breast cancer, the most common cancer among women in Qatar.

According to HMC, between 1989 and 2004, breast cancer accounted for only 13 percent of the cancer cases in Qatar, but the incidence of breast cancer has been growing alarmingly over the last few years. If detected early, breast cancer can potentially be treated easily and with minimal damage to the body. However, according to HMC, the local stigma attached to this prevalent disease has not been eliminated, despite frequent local awareness programmes. Many women still hesitate to consult a doctor even after finding abnormalities during self-examination. Statistics show that if breast cancer is discovered in the early stages, there is more than a 90 percent survival rate of up to 10 years.

Investment in health care is a key priority for the State of Qatar, with a budget of $2,9 billion allocated for Health in 2008/9. As well as significantly increasing the number of hospital beds and expanding associated facilities for diagnosis and treatment, Qatar intends to implement a pioneering e-health programme across its hospitals and clinics nationwide. This e-health programme will include the introduction of an electronic health record (e-HR) for every citizen of Qatar, with the objective of improving quality of patient treatment while simultaneously reducing overall administration costs. It is anticipated that by 2011 nearly 80 percent of clinicians in Qatar will have access to the e-HR.

GE will spend globally $3 billion over the next six years on health care innovation that will help deliver better care to more people at lower cost. In addition, the company will commit $2 billion of financing and $1 billion in related GE technology and content to drive health care information technology and health in rural and underserved areas. These worldwide investments totaling $6 billion are the foundation of GE's healthymagination initiative, which is built on the global commitments of reducing costs, improving quality and expanding access for millions of people.

"Around the world, more than 1,2 million people annually are diagnosed with breast cancer, and the incidence of breast cancer at an earlier age is on the rise in this region. We are pleased to partner with the QSTP team to develop advanced applications to support the earlier detection of this prevalent disease", stated Richard di Benedetto, President and CEO, GE Healthcare - Eastern and Africa Growth Markets (EAGM). "We are in the business of finding solutions for health care that really bring a change to people's lives. By collaborating with QSTP, we intend to help transform health care delivery across the region and globally."

GE Healthcare is one of the only companies today providing the entire mammography imaging chain from tube, detector to review workstation, coupled with integration of the comprehensive local requirements for each customer. GE's Senographe platforms are the first full-field digital mammography systems designed to meet all clinical needs, from screening to diagnostic and interventional procedures and designed for future advanced applications.

The benefits of digital mammography are such that the exam usually takes less than half the time of traditional film-based exam, and there's less of a chance the patient will be called back to retake images. Moreover, as digital mammograms are stored as an electronic image, this means they can be quickly sent to other centres for a second opinion. This will be particularly beneficial to rural hospitals, or where there is a shortage of radiologists, and offers the promise of faster diagnosis.

More company news is available in the VMW April 2009 article GE Healthcare to implement Centricity in Canada and sign partnership for health care technology development in Qatar.

Source: GE Healthcare

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