7.6.7 Boundary conditions
The existing products are designed for the diagnosis of liver cancer, whereas the third MRI contrast agent is conceived for the imaging of abdominal structures. Therefore, the fields of application are very restricted.
In order to develop new contrast agents scientists break new ground. For example metal ion carriers are combined with the cowpea chlorotic mottle virus (CCMV) which infects only plants and which can be produced in a cost effective way and in large quantities. The proteins on the CCMV shell are able to bind up to 180 metal atoms. Other segments of these shell proteins can additionally be used to attach molecules that could target the metal-loaded virus particles to tumours, while the empty interior of the virus particle can be used to deliver drug molecules to tumours. Such agents could be generally applied and compared to other nanomaterials. On the basis of the CCMV formulation signals that are 5 to 10 times higher than conventional signals can be realised. This tool could be capable of detecting microscopic tumours at their most treatable stage.
A study by Frost & Sullivan highlights the introduction of new diagnostic imaging technologies that require lower doses of contrast agents and therefore being key factors depressing sales.
Liver cancer the sixth most common cancer in the world leads to more than 600,000 cases of liver cancer worldwide each year. More than 400,000 patients come down with liver cancer in Asia, 54,000 in the European Union, and 15,000 in the United States. This illustrates that the market for specific contrast agents is very restricted.
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