The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted Volpara Health a patent on a new method for the detection and quantification of breast arterial calcifications (BACs). This expands Volpara’s global patent portfolio to 99.

BACs are medial calcifications of the mammary arteries (inappropriate and pathological depositions of mineral in the form of calcium phosphate salts). Generally considered as a benign and incidental finding from an oncological perspective, BACs have been demonstrated to be associated with chronic kidney disease, bone mineral density reduction, diabetes mellitus, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, coronary artery disease, and strokes.

Most clinical research correlating BACs with the risk of coronary artery disease has relied on the absence versus presence of BACs, or semi-quantitative BAC metrics with large uncertainty and standard deviation. Consequently, there have been inconsistent findings. That was the same situation as with breast density measurement until researchers made the field much more quantitative and objective by using more automated algorithms.

While a commercial software product that can detect and quantify BACs during routine mammographic screening, using this data then predict a patient’s risk of heart disease will require further development. 

This latest patent—which builds off Volpara Health’s approach to quantitative and objective breast density scoring—is an advancement, company officials say. Using breast tissue composition and anthropomorphic measures, a tissue composition map that identifies BACs can be created from a mammogram. Subsequently, a score is generated that indicates the likelihood of heart disease resulting from these calcifications.

“This patent is an important advancement in patient care,” says Volpara CEO Ralph Highnam. “Being able to quantify breast arterial calcifications has the potential to take what are often considered incidental, insignificant findings on a mammogram, and triage patients to cardiac care and interventions.”