Compounds developed by researchers at Virginia Tech, have proven effective in destroying breast cancer cells when used with lasers developed by Theralase Technologies (TSX-V: TLT) out of Toronto. Theralase, an international manufacturer of laser medical devices, reports that its patented photodynamic compounds (PDCs) developed at the university, when used with its lasers, destroy breast cancer cells in pre-clinical trials.

The PDCs were developed by Karen Brewer, professor of chemistry in the College of Science at Virginia Tech, and a team in biological sciences led by Professor Brenda Winkel, and they are the subject of a newly issued patent. Theralase says they plan to submit its study results to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada, as part of its collaborative work with Virginia Tech.

Roger Dumoulin-White, president and CEO of Theralase, said in a news release issued Jan. 5, 2010, “This new research brings the potential for tremendous impact on a most devastating disease, and we are excited to be working with a world-class group of researchers to further develop this technology.”

“We wanted to come up with some molecular systems that didn’t require oxygen, but would still be light-activated,” Brewer said. “We have been able to make these oxygen independent agents and they should hold promise in treatment of cancer tissue that is often oxygen deficient."

The therapy the research group developed utilizes a wavelength of light called the therapeutic window that is neither absorbed nor reflected away by tissue. This is the same wavelength that one sees as red light shining through a hand that is covering a flashlight. By using light at this wavelength, the research believed they could signal their manmade molecules to release cancer-fighting agents at the disease site.

“The challenge up until now has been that tissue blocks light, so we can’t signal molecules deep within the body to deliver drug therapy,” Brewer said.

But the research team designed supramolecular complexes that can hold and, when signaled by light (photoinitiated), will generate pharmaceutical compounds that can cleave DNA, such as in a tumor cell.

Lothar Lilge, widely published expert on photodynamic therapy and principal investigator of the study reaffirmed, “We are extremely pleased with the in-vitro results of the Theralase photodynamic compounds in the destruction of cancer cells. Results indicate that these PDCs can destroy cancer cells when light-activated, even in low-oxygen environments. Low-oxygen environments prove challenging for most other cancer therapies, which is why these PDCs are very attractive for solid tumors such as cancers of the lung, breast, prostate, and brain.”

Pending successful pre-clinical studies, scheduled to commence in 2010, will lay the groundwork for human trials, following FDA and Health Canada approvals.

Lilge, a scientist at the Ontario Cancer Institute at Princess Margaret Hospital, University Health Network added, “We are working with researchers at Virginia Tech to optimize our lead compound for breast cancer destruction, for testing in pre-clinical studies to validate both safety and effectiveness. Successful completion of the pre-clinical study and further experience with PDC light-dose interactions and toxicology will pave the way for early human trials under the FDA Phase One guidelines.”

Dumoulin-White said Theralase plans to pursue commercialization of its technology through the accelerated FDA regulatory approval process. This process “fast-tracks” approval when a treatment is shown, through proven success rate, to have a positive impact on disease. Theralase says they also plan to continue research and development to optimize other PDCs, from the same platform for a variety of cancers such as skin and brain cancer, viruses, and bacteria.

Theralase has an exclusive license for the U.S. patent rights, on the entire platform of PDCs for 17 years plus an additional 10 years under license agreement with Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties Inc., from the last patent’s date-of-issue. Theralase PDC research and development initiative is partially funded by the Ontario Centres of Excellence’s (OCE’s) Centre of Excellence for Photonics. Visit the corporate or regulatory website for more information.

Theralase Technologies Inc. designs, develops and manufactures patented, super-pulsed laser technology utilized in bio-stimulation and bio-destruction applications. To learn more about Theralase, contact Dumoulin-White, president and CEO of Theralase Technologies at (866) 843-5273.

For more information about Virginia Tech Intellectual Properties, contact Jackie Reed at (540) 443-9217.

Share this story