Newport News Firm Nets First Order for Camera

A Newport News company that will sell another cancer-detecting camera has reached an important milestone: its first purchase order.

Dilon Technologies Inc., which also is using science developed at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, will sell one of its cameras to the Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., said Nancy Morter, marketing associate for Dilon.

"It's a big step, and it's been a long time in development," Morter said.

While the technology is similar to that in the smaller Riverside camera, Riverside is not involved in the Dilon project.

The Dilon camera is better for showing the whole breast, rather than zeroing in on small potential trouble spots, said Drew Weisenberger, a staff scientist at the Jefferson Lab. Doctors could turn to the Dilon camera when mammograms are difficult to read, Weisenberger said. That's often the case with patients who have dense breast tissue, scarring from earlier surgery or implants.

The camera was in a yearlong study at Johns Hopkins Medical Center that wrapped up in June.

Fifty patients were involved. Doctors plan to do larger studies soon.

The Dilon camera is better than older equipment at finding tiny tumors, sometimes less than a centimeter in diameter, said Rachel Brem, director of the Breast Imaging and Intervention Center at George Washington University Medical Center.

"It lets us see the small, curable cancers that can be tough to diagnose," said Brem, one of the researchers involved in clinical trials on the Dilon camera. "It will be hard to envision a comprehensive breast cancer without this technology."

Dilon plans to sell each camera for about $130,000, Morter said. The company doesn't have a manufacturing facility yet, so it will build cameras on an as-needed basis at the Applied Research Center in Newport News. Washington Hospital Center's camera should be ready by early 2001.

Soon, Dilon plans to move into the bottom floor of a building the city of Newport News is putting up adjacent to the ARC, Morter said. The company, which has grown to nine employees, plans to branch out into other products but is focusing on the camera for now, she said.

— Alison Freehling can be reached at 247-4789 or by e-mail at afreehling@dailypress.com