June 16, 2014 — Conventional cancer treatment involves surgically removing cancerous tumors, then killing the remaining cells with toxic chemotherapy drugs. Unfortunately, these approaches involve invasive surgeries and the indiscriminant killing of cells, which lead to the immune system being compromised. The success rates for these treatments, particularly in later stage cancers, also leave a lot to be desired.
Companies like Galena Biopharma and Inovio Pharmaceuticals have tried to empower the patient’s immune system to selectively target cancer cells rather than killing indiscriminately. The idea is to create a kind of cancer vaccine that separates proteins from cancer cells and immunizes patients against those proteins to stimulate an immune reaction.
In this article, we’ll take a look at a different, non-invasive approach that achieves similar vaccine-like properties using the power of light.
Killing cancer with light
Theralase Technologies Inc., a designer, manufacturer, and marketer of patented super-pulsed laser technologies used in eliminating pain and destroying cancer, has taken a different variation of that approach by introducing Photo Dynamic Compounds (PDCs) into cancerous cells and then killing those cells by exposing them to cold laser light.
In preclinical animal testing at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network (UHN), the company injected mice with 350,000 colon cancer cells to produce tumors that grew to 5mm in size. They were subsequently treated with an intratumoral injection of the firm’s lead PDC and exposed to Near InfraRed (NIR) light to activate the PDCs and destroy the vast majority of tumors.
The same mice that received the initial PDCs were re-injected with the same number of colon cancer cells 13 to 23 days later. Interestingly, with no further treatment intervention, 40 percent of the mice demonstrated either a small tumor regrowth that quickly regressed or in 60 percent of the mice, no tumor regrowth at all. The results suggest a short-term immune-mediated (memory response) tumor rejection with vaccine-like properties.
Approximately 10 months after that injection, the same mice were injected for a third time with 350,000 additional colon cancer cells. 100 percent of the mice showed no signs of tumor regrowth, even at a 3-month follow-up, suggesting the presence of a long-term anti-tumor (memory response) immunity responsible for complete tumor rejection. Mice in control experiments did not survive longer than a month following the cancer cell injection.
The potential for short-term and long-term anti-cancer memory response, or vaccine-like properties, would represent a major breakthrough in cancer research and provide substantial treatment benefit and survival advantage to cancer patients. In addition to the immunity, the patented therapy’s potential to rapidly kill patient-specific cancer cells and regress tumors provides the immediate efficacy needed.
“This is one of the first preclinical trials to show that it’s possible to generate long-term anticancer memory response,” Theralase CSO Dr. Arkady Mandel said. “For the first time in our research program, we have demonstrated that NIR Photo Dynamic Therapy (PDT) leads not only to long standing clearance of colon cancer cells, but also provides long lasting protection against further tumor cell challenge in young and older mice.”
Theralase Technologies plans on continuing its pre-clinical studies to confirm the findings for a range of induced and spontaneous animal tumor models. Once the results have been adequately tested on animals, researchers hope to replicate the characteristics in humans and demonstrate the same efficacy. Successful results in humans could have immense implications on the war on cancer.
With a market capitalization of just $17.6 million, investors have the opportunity to buy into a promising cancer-fighting technology, as well as an existing pain management franchise that already generates revenue. Clinical trials on humans are slated for early 2015 and the potential for strategic partnerships and additional clinical results along the way could catalyze the stock higher.
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