NeoTherma Oncology raised $6 million to bring its thermal device for cancer treatment into human testing. Its first stop? Pancreatic cancer.
The Wichita, Kansas-based devicemaker is working on what it calls its Thermal Treatment (TTx) system as an adjunct therapy for cancer. It uses a noninvasive, nonionizing electromagnetic field to increase the temperature in tumor tissue to “fever-range.” Dialing up the temperature should increase the efficacy of cancer treatments, such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy and immunotherapy, the company says.
The energy emitted by NeoTherma’s device increases perfusion—the passage of blood—in the tumor microenvironment, reversing treatment-resistant hypoxia and boosting a therapeutic immune response, the company says.
With the new capital, NeoTherma will test its VectRx thermal oncology treatment platform in humans.
"This investment provides us the ability to realize a dream—completing and qualifying the VectRx medical device to begin clinical studies in patients with pancreatic cancer, demonstrating the benefits of NTO’s adjuvant thermal oncology therapy," said NeoTherma CEO Mike Wandell, in a statement.
“R&K Edwards Investments, LLC is very excited about the unique, innovative cancer treatment technology developed by NeoTherma Oncology and the management team led by Dr. Michael Wandell,” said Ron Edwards, managing member at R&K Edwards Investments, which participated in the financing. “NTO has quickly established undeniable credibility as they have developed their cutting-edge technology, evidenced by FDA’s Breakthrough therapy designation, and the endorsements of expert clinicians we interviewed during the diligence process.”
Because the pancreas is located deep within the abdomen, pancreatic cancer is often caught at later stages and is difficult to treat. It is generally treated with intravenous chemotherapy, but these injections often fail because the organ is so difficult to reach.
Boosting the efficacy of existing therapies is just one way to improve treatments for this deadly cancer. Another tack is to diagnose it earlier—for example, a team from the University of Washington is working on a diagnostic tool that comprises a smartphone and a box. The app, BilliScreen, uses algorithms to detect jaundice in a photo of a person’s eyes. Specifically it measures elevated levels of bilirubin in the sclera—the white part of the eye. Jaundice, caused by a buildup of bilirubin, is an early symptom of pancreatic cancer and other diseases.
Yet another approach is to fine-tune the delivery of cancer-fighting drugs. In 2016, researchers at MIT created an implantable device that delivers chemotherapy directly to pancreatic tumors. The implant is a thin, flexible film made from the polymer PLGA, which is already used in drug delivery and medical applications. The film can be rolled up and inserted through a catheter. Once it reaches the tumor, it unfolds and wraps the tumor. Drugs embedded in the film are then released from its tumor-facing side, which reduces side effects on other tissues.