A breakthrough drug delivery system, set for human trials, has achieved remarkable results in mice. Not only does it kickstart the immune system into attacking the tumour it adds the cancerous cells to its list of unwanted enemies that will be attacked again immediately on detection - It also reduces the distressing set of side effects, including hair loss.
Intensity are just one of a rash of biotechnology companies springing up to take advantage of advances in science that have yet to be developed into commercial treatments. What sets them apart is it's people. Founder and CEO, Lewis H Bender, a chemical engineer by training, set the company up in 2012 following a highly successful tenure at Interleukin Genetics. During his four years in charge at Interleukin the company developed a new genetic-based testing platform, increased sales eight-fold and partnered with a large insurance provider reimbursing their lead product.
Intensity Therapeutics was set up with the noble mission to extend the lives of cancer patients. Their treatment approach is called "in situ vaccination" and it has achieved incredible results in mice, with human trials on 50 patients in the USA and Canada approved and slated to start soon.
The Challenge of Cancer
The issue with current treatments for advanced tumours is twofold. First that the delivery mechanism, chemotherapy, is systemic. That is, it is a drug that is delivered orally and affects the entire system. The downside is that very little of the drug reaches the tumour itself, though the tumour is only part of the problem for the patient - there are also the invisible micromestases that are floating around the body, or already establishing themselves as secondary tumours. The other issue is the severe side effects associated with the highly toxic treatments currently available for late stage tumours - among which hair loss might not be the most significant but does have the most profound impact on the patient at a difficult time.
In Situ Vaccination
The new approach, which hopes to target the most common of cancers in humans, involved injecting two proven drugs directly into the tumour. It evoked a powerful immune response in the mouse, powerful enough to destroy the tumour and remove all the invisible micromestases. To the extent that in their tests 80% of cases were successfully treated... of equal importance was that that treated mice stayed cancer free, benefitting from the vaccination element of the treatment. The tumour dies from the inside out but the immune system, now able to "see" the cancer cells, is on guard against them should they reappear in the future.
Crucially these benefits are achieved with a far smaller dose of the powerful, and toxic, drugs when compared with traditional chemotherapy. This reduces those terrible side-effects and holds the promise of hair loss free cancer treatment. We will be watching out for the trial results and hope to report on an unmitigated success.