RenovoRx closed the first tranche of a $10 million financing, reeling in $7 million from the likes of Boston Scientific, the Halo Fund and Golden Seeds, among others. The capital will advance the development of the company's drug-device combo for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
While pancreatic cancer is relatively rare in the U.S., a diagnosis can often mean a death sentence. Pancreatic tumors tend not to be found until they have advanced, with patients typically showing no symptoms until the cancer has already spread to other organs, the American Cancer Society says. The usual treatment is intravenous chemotherapy, but these injections often fail because they cannot reach the pancreas, which lies deep within the abdomen.
Enter RenovoRx, whose RenovoCath, a dual-balloon infusion catheter, is designed to deliver chemotherapy directly to tumors. The Silicon Valley-based company has started enrolling patients in a randomized phase 3 study that will compare intra-arterial chemotherapy delivered by RenovoCath to systemic chemotherapy. It is looking to enroll 300 patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer at up to 20 sites in the U.S., and will measure overall survival as the primary endpoint.
“There are significant challenges in treating pancreatic cancer and our aim is to overcome these barriers by using a catheter-based, targeted approach to delivering chemotherapy. This funding, along with our FDA Orphan Drug Designation and approval of our IND are three important milestones in bringing this new therapy option to patients,” said RenovoRx CEO Shaun Bagai, in a statement.
Researchers are working on several new approaches for pancreatic cancer, such as blocking certain enzymes to alter the metabolism of pancreatic tumors. A team from Boston Children's Hospital discovered that inhibiting the nitrogen-clearing enzyme ARG2 curbed tumor growth in mice. And scientists from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center found that inhibiting CDK4 and 6 not only slowed tumor growth but also made pancreatic tumors more vulnerable to other cancer-fighting drugs, such as mTOR inhibitors.
On the device side, a team from MIT is developing a thin polymer implant to deliver drugs directly to pancreatic tumors, while researchers from the University of Washington are working on a smartphone app that, along with a 3D-printed box, could detect pancreatic cancer earlier by measuring the jaundice in a photo of a person's eyes.