In a recent announcement, Canon Inc., Canon Medical Systems Corporation, and the National Cancer Center Japan (NCC) have commenced clinical research using a next-generation X-ray CT system with photon counting computed tomography (photon-counting CT, PCCT). The first Japanese-produced PCCT system was approved in December 2022, and the companies are now conducting joint research and a clinical trial to develop new diagnostic methods and evaluate their clinical value.

The research is taking place at the NCC Exploratory Oncology Research & Clinical Trial Center (EPOC) and the NCC Hospital East, with a focus on the 3C’s: Conquer and Cure Cancer. EPOC provides comprehensive support and implementation from seed searches to preclinical and primary clinical trials to foster the development of new drugs and medical devices for fighting cancer. As a center for primary translational research and development based on a cross-disciplinary network encompassing a wide variety of fields, EPOC drives the development of advanced oncology drugs and medical devices and is responsible for the introduction of many groundbreaking medical treatments through co-creation involving industry, governments, academia, and the private sector.

The basic principles of PCCT can be traced back to technologies developed in Japan’s advanced space program. The anticipated advantages of PCCT include significantly reduced radiation exposure compared to conventional CT, improved detectability of pathological changes thanks to higher resolution imaging, and more precise discrimination and identification of various materials in the body, as well as tissue characterization and malignancy assessment based on quantitative image analysis. These advances should lead to improved diagnostic accuracy throughout all phases of patient care in the field of oncology, from prevention to diagnosis, to evaluation of treatment effects, and to long-term prognosis.

A number of studies have already been presented at scientific meetings, including the Annual Meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, the Annual Meeting of the European Society of Radiology, and the Annual Meeting of the Japanese Society of Radiological Technology, based on joint research with EPOC and NCC Hospital East to investigate the clinical applications of PCCT, which began in 2020. The unprecedented basic performance of PCCT is generating excitement in all parts of the world, as was clearly demonstrated by the CyPos Prize awarded at the Annual Meeting of the Japanese Society of Radiological Technology.

The NCC Hospital East will report study results and present lectures at the 82nd Congress of the Japan Radiological Society and the 79th Congress of the Japanese Society of Radiological Technology, to be held at Pacifico Yokohama from April 13 through April 16. Dr. Tatsushi Kobayashi, Chief of the Department of Diagnostic Radiology at NCC Hospital East, commented that PCCT provides high-quality images and minimizes image noise and artifacts at relatively low exposure doses compared to conventional CT. Furthermore, high-precision imaging and multi-energy analysis are expected to lead to new diagnostic imaging techniques and drug evaluation methods.

Dr. Toshihiko Doi, Director of EPOC, added that EPOC focuses on research and the creation of innovative medical technologies through collaboration involving industry, the government, academia, and the private sector. He believes that Canon Inc., Canon Medical, EPOC, and NCC Hospital East can all work together to co-create the next-generation PCCT with the goal of ensuring its rapid clinical introduction and implementation. Dr. Doi also highlighted the importance of incorporating the feedback and opinions of physicians who are using the PCCT system in clinical settings. By doing so, the development and implementation of this new CT technology can be accelerated, ultimately leading to improved patient care and outcomes. With the collective expertise and resources of all involved parties, Dr. Doi is optimistic about the potential of PCCT in advancing the field of oncology and improving the lives of cancer patients.