EPIX Medical Inc. has launched a new corporate Web site on the Internet. This home page uses interactive multimedia technology to show several cutting-edge visualization techniques designed to expand the clinical utility of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). As its centrepiece, the Web site features a Virtual Workstation with images from two Phase II clinical studies of AngioMARK (MS-325), EPIX's lead intravascular MR contrast agent, which is currently under development. The visitor can participate in a 360 degrees interactive visualization of MR scans.
A few years ago, Dr. Randall Lauffer developed the first product of Receptor-Induced Magnetic Enhancement (RIME) technology, referred to as AngioMARK (MS-325). The MRI process was discovered at Massachusetts General Hospital. Later, Dr. Lauffer founded the EPIX Medical company as an opportunity to refine the capability as well as expand the use of MRI as a tool for the diagnosis of human disease through the application of targeted contrast agents. AngioMARK (MS-325) forms such an injectable contrast agent designed for multiple vascular imaging indications, including coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease.
The new RIME technology involves the design of metal complexes, binding to particular proteins and receptor molecules in the body. This binding causes increased concentration and retention of the contrast agent in the specific tissues and fluids which contain targeted receptor molecules. The binding also causes a special magnetic effect based on the complex biophysics of MRI contrast agents. One of the factors that determines an MRI contrast agent's signal enhancing effect is its rotation, or tumbling rate, in solution. If the agent binds to a large molecule through the RIME process, its tumbling rate decreases substantially, which results in a corresponding increase in the strength of the agent's magnetic signal, detectable by MRI.
At present, EPIX Medical is conducting Phase II feasibility trials for breast tumour imaging. In addition to the diagnosis of coronary artery disease, peripheral vascular disease and tumour imaging, the company continues to explore the potential of other promising clinical applications for AngioMARK, including thrombo-embolic disease, myocardial perfusion, and evaluation of the tissue-enhancement capability. Because of its unique protein-binding capabilities, AngioMARK can remain at high concentration throughout the vascular system for up to 50 minutes before the drug is excreted safely via the kidneys. This allows physicians to capture clear, high-resolution images of both arteries and veins, with a richer and more complete visualization of the vasculature.
AngioMARK-enhanced MRI, therefore, has the potential to provide twice as much diagnostic information to the physician as conventional angiography. To help physicians effectively manage this increased amount of information, simple, user-friendly technologies are being developed, enabling doctors to select with one push of a button, the vascular structures they wish to view. The current acquisition techniques include velocity-encoded phase contrast, oxygenation phase contrast, and temporal labelling procedures. The post-processing techniques apply "intelligent" computing algorithms, based on the concepts of "fuzzy connectedness", smart-graph searching, and 3D grey scale connectivity, to identify contiguous vascular structures.
On the newly developed Web site, the Virtual Workstation format enables visitors to experience first-hand the full potential of MRI by placing the user in the role of the physician during a simulated AngioMARK-enhanced MR procedure. After "scanning" certain vascular regions of the patient, visitors have the option of applying several different visualization technologies, including "fly-through/fly-by" navigation, multi-planar reformatting, and artery/vein separation techniques, to view and manipulate these 3-dimensional images. Users also can access the on-line videos of Phase II clinical trial investigators discussing AngioMARK.
In addition, the site includes a gallery of side-by-side images from the Phase II peripheral vascular disease trial comparing AngioMARK-enhanced MRI to x-ray angiography, the current gold standard for vascular imaging. The side-by-side comparisons constitute a big support to illustrate the high degree of correlation between these two imaging modalities. AngioMARK presents the future of non-invasive cardovascular imaging since the drug significantly can enhance the image quality. EPIX envisions a time when physicians will view and manipulate 3D MR images on a nearby screen to make their diagnoses just minutes after scans are performed.