Park City-based NuView Life Sciences develops compound to diagnose cancer
February 5, 2016
For years, the technology used to diagnose some of the most common forms of cancer has largely remained the same.
But a Park City-based company is trying to change everything. Paul Crowe, chairman and CEO of NuView Life Sciences in Newpark, said a compound the company has developed over the last eight years could represent a revolutionary step forward in the early diagnosis and, potentially, the treatment of several types of cancer, such as breast cancer and prostate cancer.
"This is going to help a lot of people around the world that we will never see or meet," he said. "I think it’s rewarding for everybody who works here. It’s a neat opportunity to do what most people in the health care industry do, which is help other people. That’s our mission."
The compound NuView Life Sciences has developed works by binding itself to the surface of cancer cells throughout the body, Crowe said. It can be injected into the body, then detected using imaging technology that essentially creates roadmaps revealing where cancer cells are located. Additionally, the compound can be used with blood or urine tests to detect cancer cells the body has shed.
"It’s not an ‘if’ or ‘maybe’ with these tests," Crowe said. "It’s either you have (cancer) or you don’t."
That certainty is a large improvement over the way many forms of cancers are currently diagnosed, Crowe said. For example, mammograms are used to screen for breast cancer, but they can’t definitively determine whether any tumors detected are malignant. If cancer is suspected, patients are then referred for costly surgical tissue biopsies that reveal whether cancer is actually present.
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A similar process is used to diagnose prostate cancer — though instead of mammograms, what’s known as prostate-specific antigen tests are used — but there is one large problem, Crowe said. Research has shown that only about two out of every 10 patients who are referred for tissue biopsies actually have cancer.
Diagnoses using NuView Life Sciences’ compound could eliminate those unnecessary biopsies. No longer would healthy patients go through the torment of thinking they might have cancer, Crowe said, and insurance companies would pocket billions in savings. And improved early detection would give doctors more options for treatment.
"This new product that we have eliminates the anxiety that goes along with that for the patient," he said. "And by reducing the number of necessary biopsies, we reduce the cost of health care universally. It really resonates with the entire audience: the patient, the physician because they’re getting better diagnoses and the insurance because they’re saving money."
Development of the compound first began in 2007. Crowe said advancements were delayed by the recession, which made it difficult to raise capital for testing, but research in recent years at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia has yielded encouraging results.
Crowe said that the compound’s imaging applications are set to enter Phase 2 clinical trials this year, and he expects about 10 institutions to perform about 100 to 150 studies.
Additionally, NuView Life Sciences entered into a licensing agreement with a Japanese company called Otsuka Pharmaceutical Group about a year ago to distribute the compound’s imaging uses. The plan is to start with diagnosing breast and prostate cancers, then expand into testing for several other forms of cancer, as well.
The compound’s uses as a liquid biopsy — through blood and urine tests that cost roughly are also receiving widespread interest from a number of hospitals and institutions because of its low $400 to $500 cost and 30-minute turnaround time, Crowe said.
"This represents the new generation of precision diagnostics," he said.
But in addition to diagnosing cancer, the compound may be able to improve how doctors treat it.
"You can use this same technology to create another picture to see if the cancer has disappeared," Crowe said.
And because the compound only attaches itself to cancer cells, it could even deliver targeted chemotherapy that affects only mutated cells and ignores healthy ones. That could be revolutionary for the millions of patients who undergo chemotherapy each year.
"We feel that this (compound) is going to really modernize how to diagnose and treat cancer," Crowe said. "It has global opportunities."