Sirtex, SingHealth develop stealth cancer treatments

Australian company Sirtex Medical has signed up to a collaboration with Singapore-based SingHealth to develop a stealthy approach to treating cancer--tiny injectable carbon-wrapped packages that hide from the immune system and deliver a radiotherapy dose directly to tumors. The technology, known as carbon cage nanoparticles, could provide new options for hard-to-treat cancers.

The master research collaboration agreement will start with investigating the delivery system's use to deliver radioactive material for the treatment of ovarian cancer that has spread. Ovarian cancer is an often-silent disease that is only detected at an advanced stage, by which time it has become hard to treat. The technology also has potential in gastrointestinal, hepatobiliary and other gynecological cancers. The particles have an inert shell that can be coated with targeting molecules, or coatings that make them invisible to the immune system.

The nanoparticles, which have metallic cores encapsulated in graphitic carbon, grew out of the invention of technegas in 1984. Technegas is an aerosol of microscopic carbon particles containing a radiologically detectable radioisotope that is used to detect blood clots in the lungs. Technegas was developed at the Royal Canberra Hospital and the Australian National University (ANU), and Sirtex has worked with the ANU over the last 6 years to develop an injectable form of the system. Gilman Wong, CEO of Sirtex, describes this agreement as a "milestone" in the technology's development.

Sirtex's focus is on developing cancer treatments based on small particle technology, and in September, the company reported a 27% increase to $59 million in U.S. sales of its radioembolization treatment for inoperable liver cancer.

- read the press release from Sirtex Medical
- see the press release from SingHealth