GE Healthcare picks up ER-positive breast cancer imaging agent in Zionexa deal

To help diagnose women with certain types of breast cancer, GE Healthcare is buying up a small French developer of a recently FDA-approved molecular imaging agent.

Zionexa, which employs 24 people in France and the U.S., produces Cerianna (fluoroestradiol F-18), a PET contrast agent that helps highlight estrogen receptor-positive tumors in patients whose breast cancer has recurred or spread—a groundbreaking tool that GE Healthcare has big commercial plans for. 

The company said it hopes to make Cerianna available to at least three-quarters of all patients with metastatic breast cancer in the U.S. by 2023. 

Since its stateside launch last December—under a manufacturing and distribution deal with Siemens’ Healthineers PETNET Solutions—the agent has already reached about 25% of patients with late-stage disease, which number about 168,000 in total, GE Healthcare estimates.

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The financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, but all two dozen of Zionexa’s employees are expected to join GE Healthcare’s 47,000, alongside plans to make about 70 new dedicated hires to help scale up Cerianna’s nationwide adoption.

The imaging injection, also known as EstroTep, is designed to be used alongside tissue biopsies across the continuum of cancer diagnosis and care, as ER expression can vary from lesion to lesion, as well as change over time and in the face of certain therapies. This can help oncologists track treatment responses and adjust accordingly.

Zionexa also maintains a pipeline of other imaging biomarkers in development, including injectable contrast agents for endocrine tumors, lymphoma and myeloma, as well as Parkinson’s disease.