One of the major concerns during treatments involving radiation therapy in cancer patients is that radiations destroy healthy cells along with the diseased cells. High doses of radiation often damage healthy organs, which can lead to further complications.
An Israeli startup called BioProtect has found a way to make radiation therapy safer: It developed small biodegradable balloons that isolate the tumor from healthy tissues.
Prostate cancer is the first cancer that BioProtect was able to isolate with its balloons, called ProSpace. According to the company, radiation in the case of prostate cancer creates many complications, such as bleeding, because of the proximity of the rectum.
BioProtect says recent trials have shown that their balloons can significantly reduce the amount of radiation that reaches the rectal wall.
The BioProtect balloon can also allow higher radiation doses that would have otherwise been too dangerous.
Inserting the ProSpace balloon requires a minimally invasive procedure, according to its developers.
The balloons are made from biodegradable polymers, which dissolve in the body within six months, meaning that there is no need for surgery to remove them.
The balloon is inserted as a folded cylinder, which is inflated with a solution of sterile saline once placed between the prostate and the rectum. Implanting the balloon in this location creates a “safe gap” of 15-20mm between the tumor and healthy tissues.
Minimizing health complications
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The American Cancer Institute approximates that one in eight deaths around the world is caused by cancer, and around 12 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed annually worldwide.
These statistics are expected to increase in future years due to increased life expectancy, aging populations and technological progression leading to more sophisticated screening techniques and early cancer detection.
Currently, the three main methods of treating cancer are radiation therapy, chemotherapy and surgery, all of which can be used as stand-alone treatment or in combination, depending on the type of cancer being treated. The National Cancer Institute says that radiation therapy is administered to 50 percent of cancer sufferers in the United States.
BioProtect has completed its pre-clinical studies and recently completed a multicenter pivotal study for the European market that included participant centers in the United States, Germany, Italy and Israel.
The pre-clinical trials showed positive results, with 24 patients with median follow-up of 6 months having an average of 90 percent reduction in radiation of the prostate prescribed dose and significant reduction in any important radiation parameters at the rectum.
BioProtect ProSpace received the CE Mark in 2010 and the company consequently began marketing the product in Europe. However, the product is still not available for the US market and awaits further clinical investigation.
BioProtect says it plans to expand the use of the ProSpace balloons to other types of cancers such as colon and breast cancer.
Photo courtesy of BioProtect