Targeted neutron treatment of embedded cancers
By Katie Pfaff
Tae Life Sciences, a majority-owned subsidiary of Tae Technologies Inc., launched this week, forging ahead in development of its investigational accelerator-based platform hoped to treat head, neck and glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) cancer. Tae Life Sciences has licensed IP from Tae Technologies for the accelerator-based neutron beam technology for Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT), and aims to expand treatment capabilities for these difficult-to-address malignancies. In conjunction with its launch, Tae Life Sciences also inked a partnership deal with Neuboron Medtech Ltd. and closed a $40 million venture round.
Head and neck cancer and GBM often pose particular difficulty in treatment due to their locations and growth in healthy tissue.
"These cancers are typically the hardest to treat because of their proximity to sensitive tissue," Bruce Bauer, CEO, Tae Life Sciences, of Foothill Ranch, Calif., told BioWorld MedTech. "Typically, treatment for such tumors is impossible or done at great risk to the patient. Because of the ability for BNCT to attack cancer cells while leaving surrounding tissue intact, it becomes a strong advantage."
Glioblastoma diagnoses number 12,390 per year, or 14.9 percent of primary brain tumors, according to the American Brain Tumor Association.
Healthy tissue spared with BNCT
BNCT may provide a new option for patients with GBM and head and neck cancers due to its ability to leave healthy tissue unharmed.
"BNCT is a combination therapy using both a target drug and a neutrons," explained Bauer. "BNCT offers patients the unique ability to target radiation treatment at the cellular level, thus limiting damage to surrounding healthy much more than conventional treatments. This technique is particularly well-suited to treat tumors that are highly infiltrated throughout normal tissue or close to critical structures. With targeting this precise, the patient can benefit from fewer side effects and an improved quality of life, too. It is also a convenient and comfortable procedure, typically delivered in only one or two sessions."
Tae's investigational system combines a binding medication and energy beam.
"BNCT is a multi-step combination therapy. A cancer patient is first administered a boron target drug that preferentially binds to and carries non-toxic boron-10 to malignant cells. The tumor tissue is then showered with a beam of low energy neutrons at a level and spectrum optimal for reaction with the boron-10. This reaction between the boron-10 and neutrons, inside the cells, emits charged particles that destroy the cell while limiting damage to surrounding healthy tissue without boron-10. Once the beam reacts with the boron in the cancer cells, the relative biological effectiveness is many times greater than traditional radiation therapies. This secondary radiation reaction, with cellular-level precision, spares more healthy tissue and can potentially treat cancers that otherwise have few treatment options due to their proximity to critical tissue."
Investigational device outlook
Tae's accelerator-based neutron beam technology includes an adjustable neutron beam, which can be tuned to specific intensity and spectrum and is small enough to be incorporated into hospital-based radiation centers. The system is currently investigational and is not yet approved.
Despite its clinical merits, BNCT has yet to catch on due to limited access to neutrons useful in treatment, according to the company a need which has been addressed with their system.
"Part of the reason why BNCT treatment has been slow to develop has been the difficulty in acquiring neutrons, which had to be sourced from a nuclear reactor," said Bauer. "Through its accelerator-based beam technology, Tae Life Sciences is now able to bring an affordable source of neutrons to the health care space, without the negative implications of a nuclear fission source, and in a package that is suitable for practical installation and operation in a hospital setting."
Partnership deal, $40M in funding
Parallel to its stateside launch, Tae has entered a partnership with Neuboron, a Chinese firm focused on BNCT research and applications in the region. The agreement includes Tae's delivery of its system to Neuboron for medical use, and will serve as a monetary stream for Tae.
"Neuboron is a valuable partner as they have an established practice of BNCT work in China, but lack a safe and affordable means of generating neutrons needed for treatment," commented Bauer. "Neuboron will be able to leverage Tae Life Sciences' technology immediately as the neutron beam portion of their total BNCT product offering, and provide a revenue source to allow the company to continue to build out its technology platform together with Neuboron, and offer the ability to provide complete drop-in BNCT treatment centers in U.S. and European hospitals."
The partnership and Neuboron "will allow for an important first proof in a market vitally important for cancer treatment," he said, adding that China sees a higher rate of head and neck malignancies compared to the west.
In addition to the partnership deal, Tae also gathered steam to move forward in its growth with its first round of funding, led by Artis Ventures.
"The initial A round will allow for the company to further build out its team, finance production of Tae Life Sciences beam equipment, and develop a base of clinical research sites critical for seeking regulatory approval," shared Bauer.
The company, which is backed by a team of physicists, researchers, radiation oncologists, and clinicians, plans to build partnerships with clinical research groups to continue work with BNCT, and to accelerate development of its technology system, as well as act as a supplier of neutron beams used in BNCT therapy. Artis' co-founder and president, Stuart Peterson, and Tae Technologies executives, Steven Specker, CEO; Michl Binderbauer, president and CTO; and Artem Smirnov, vice president, will serve on Tae Life Sciences' board. Tae Technologies specializes in fusion energy technology.
Plymouth, Minn.-based Monteris Medical Inc. closed a $26.6 million series C round last summer to market its FDA-approved robotic laser ablation device, Neuroblate system, for surgical treatment of brain tumors through thermal therapy ablation and resultant coagulation of soft tissue. The system is made up of robotic software and hardware, and disposable surgical devices, and is used with an MRI scanner. Neuroblate employs a CO₂-cooled laser probe to apply targeted laser interstitial thermal therapy. (See BioWorld MedTech, June 5, 2017.)
Last fall, Nativis Inc., maker of Voyager ultra-low radiofrequency energy device, expanded its clinical study, GBMNAT-101, of recurrent GBM to more patients. The device is intended to alter metabolic pathways and impede epidermal growth factor receptor gene expression. The treatment accompanies chemotherapy or other treatment. (See BioWorld MedTech, Sept. 15, 2017.)
Novocure, of New Jersey, also markets a device used in combination with chemotherapy or alone to treat GBM. The Optune wearable uses adhesive transducer arrays to emit low-intensity alternating electrical fields to alter cellular processes.
Published March 15, 2018