Imagion Biosystems says it has found a nanoparticle formulation to detect breast cancer earlier.

Imagion (ASX:IBX) uses magnetic nanoparticle image-guided therapy for the treatment of cancers.

The ASX-listed biotech’s MagSense technology uses tiny nanoparticles to “tag” cancers that are picked up by highly sensitive magnetic sensors that locate and characterise tumours.

The company told investors this morning that it had “successfully optimised” the nanoparticle formulation it will use in its first in-human clinical trials — a test for the detection of HER2 breast cancer cells in the lymph nodes.

Imagion says it will now move the product into clinical development.

IBX shares were flat on the news at 9c.

HER2, short for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, is a protein that can promote the growth of cancer cells. It has become a biomarker and target for therapy.

Imagion Biosystems shares (ASX:IBX) over the past year.

Back in October last year, Imagion took the initial step towards in-human trials by signing a partnership with Dutch nanoparticle maker ChemConnection.

That company will now manufacture the first batch of HER2 nanoparticle test reagent, for use in a toxicology study, a prerequisite to in-human studies that Imagion says will commence in early 2019.

Prior to that, the company expects to have the nanoparticles test for safety and toxicity, initiate production of a second batch and seek the required approvals for the first clinical trial.

The MagSense technology, which goes by a term Imagion has dubbed superparamagnetic relaxometry, has the ability to detect the small magnetic field released by tiny nanoparticles after they have been briefly magnetised, or when they “relax”.

Imagion say it is 1000 times more sensitive than conventional X-Rays, ultrasounds, mammograms or MRIs to detect cancer earlier and at a lower cost, and removes the necessity for invasive alternatives.