Investors pitch in to push sales of breast cancer detector

Dilon Technologies, a Newport News-based medical technology firm, has raised $7.25 million from investors to help market a high-resolution "gamma camera" that detects breast cancer.

The equity offering will help expand the sales of the company's Dilon 6800 Gamma Camera, which uses molecular imaging to gauge the health of the tissue within a woman's breast.

The small private company brought the product to market in fall 2004, president Lon Slane said Monday.

"There is a trend these days in radiology to provide new forms of imaging," Slane said. "The product is being used on a daily, routine basis by many medical centers around the country."

The stock offering was placed by Taglich Bros. Inc., of New York, a full-service investment banking firm.

Mike Taglich, president of the banking firm, said the equities were purchased by various high net-worth investors and institutions that have had a long-standing relationship with Taglich Bros. He said principals of Taglich Bros. invested in the offering.

Taglich said he thinks the gamma camera "is going to be adopted as the standard of care" for detecting breast cancer and for helping surgeons plan for surgery in cases where cancer is found.

"I think this is going to save a lot of lives," Taglich said Monday.

The Dilon 6800 Gamma Camera sells for about $230,000, Taglich said. Slane said it is the first product Dilon has brought to market.

Slane said the 10-year-old firm, with fewer than 25 employees, licensed the technology from the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, where researchers helped develop it.

Dilon received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval in 1999. Clinical trials are ongoing, but Slane said trials at Johns Hopkins University and George Washington Medical Center showed the benefits.

Slane said that the gamma camera is intended to augment rather than replace mammograms - still the primary screening tool for breast cancer.

It is useful in cases where a mammogram is inconclusive or when a woman has risk factors - such as dense breast tissue or lumps that can be felt but not seen by mammography - that make detection difficult, he said.

Instead of searching the structure of the breast, as mammograms do using X-rays, the gamma camera examines the metabolism of cells inside it. A radioactive tracer used in the gamma camera procedure concentrates in the most active cells, such as cancer cells, which multiply rapidly.

"It should eliminate or drastically reduce false positives," Taglich said, potentially reducing the need for invasive and tissue-scarring biopsies.

"You don't want to do a biopsy unless you have to," Taglich said.