This Waterloo startup has developed a new way to screen for lung cancer

University of Waterloo startup KA Imaging is testing an innovative way to screen for lung cancer at Grand River Hospital.

Grand River Hospital leading clinical trial of KA Imaging X-ray device

Waterloo-based company KA Imaging has developed an x-ray that gives doctors a clearer view of a patient's lungs, by separating the bone structure (left) and soft tissue (right). The device is being tested on patients with lung cancer or nodules at Grand River Hospital. (Grand River Hospital/Supplied)

A Waterloo-based startup is testing an innovative way to screen for lung cancer at Grand River Hospital.

KA Imaging has developed a new device called a high-resolution multi-energy digital X-ray imager.

The technology allows health care providers to look at an image of the body in different layers, like the bone structure or soft tissue, to get a clearer view of the lungs.

"The reason from a clinical point of view why that's important is a lot of time the cancer is going to be hiding behind the rib cage, especially near the top of the lungs or the apex of the lungs, where it's covered by some of the bones," president and CEO Amol Karnick said.

The company is hoping the technology could pave the way for more widespread screening programs and replace the need for CT scans that give off high levels of radiation.

Karnick said even low dose CT scanners can emit 50 times more radiation than the X-ray. It's also more work intensive to use the CT scanner.

"With our single X-ray, you sort of walk up to the X-ray, they get positioned. It's a snapshot, you take a picture and that's it."

The high-resolution multi-energy digital x-ray is portable, making more accessible than a traditional CT scan. (Grand River Hospital/Supplied)

Cheaper, more portable device could improve patient care

The study at Grand River Hospital will involve up to 30 patients who have already been diagnosed with cancer or lung nodules and are currently being monitored by the imaging department.

The patients will get an X-ray with KA Imaging's device, alongside their regular CT scan.

"The purpose is not diagnostic, it's not to diagnose the disease, but it's to look at the quality of images as compared to the regular CT," said Carla Girolametto, the director of research, innovation and clinical trials at the hospital.

The technology could be a game changer for patient care, Girolametto explained.

"It's faster, there is less cost than a CT scan and it's a portable technology as well, so it could be brought to the patients. So if there are patients that could not be moved in different areas of the hospital, this is a mobile device that can be taken to the patients."

KA Imaging is hoping to launch a commercial version of the X-ray in mid-2019, if the study is successful.