While cancer patients are used to being prodded and poked, people suffering from bladder cancer – more specifically, transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the bladder – must tolerate one of the most painful and difficult treatment regimens. TCC requires examination by a cystoscope, an optical device inserted through the urethra. The discomfort, pain, potential urinary tract infections and bleeding is enough to prevent some patients from adhering to follow-up protocol.
There is good news out of Israel for patients who just can't face another cystoscopy. RealView (http://www.realview-medical.com/), based in the Israeli town of Misgav, has developed an imaging system that surgeons can insert into the urinary bladder in a one-time procedure. The device contains an image sensor, transmitter, energy source and orientation actuator, which allows the sensor to be shifted remotely to get different views of the tract.
It's all packed into a unique capsule placed inside a soft silicon shell, which protects the equipment and the patient. The capsule is designed to remain in place for up to two years, during which time the chance of TCC recurrence is high.
To view the images, the doctor places a navigation and detection system next to the patient. The capsule inside the bladder transmits high-quality images to an external recording device for viewing, processing and storing for future comparison purposes. Thus the doctor gets a clear view of the progress of treatment, painlessly.
Full color photos from inside the bladder
Dr. Amos Neheman, co-founder and medical director of RealView, says the procedure is far superior to ultrasound. “The images produced by our device are full-color, high-resolution photos. Doctors can use them to determine the exact current status of the bladder area. Using an external device, the doctor can guide and navigate the capsule’s position to get the best view of the bladder’s interior. And our proprietary image-processing algorithms 'stitch' the images together for a 360-degree view,” says Neheman.
RealView was established by Neheman, a urologist with extensive surgical experience, about three years ago. He and his two partners, CEO Gershon Goldenberg and co-founder Uri Neeman, received funding from the Trendlines Group's Misgav Innovation Accelerator (http://www.misgav-venture.com/management.asp), from which it recently graduated.
The technology is patented in the United States and Europe, and a first-stage test involving observation of a sheep's bladder for an extended period of time was a resounding success, Neheman says.
“We kept that test going for about five months, ensuring that there were no adverse effects in relation to the device, or other complications. Now we are moving into the next stage -- testing the system on people -- and after that we will begin seeking approval from authorities in the EU and US”
TCC, while less well known than some other cancers, affects an estimated 500,000 people in the US, with more than 69,000 new diagnoses each year, and accounts for more than 90 percent of all bladder cancer patients in developed countries. The annual direct costs of bladder cancer management in the US alone are estimated at $4 billion.
That in itself is enough to ensure great demand for RealView's solution, says Neheman. The system could one day allow patients to concentrate on getting better instead of concentrating on the pain and indignity of cystoscopies.