Oraya Therapeutics awarded grant to develop gold nanoparticle cancer therapy

12 August 2014

Privately held California company Oraya Therapeutics, Inc. has been awarded a US$215,000 Small Business Technology Transfer Grant from the National Institutes of Health to investigate how Oraya Therapy, a low voltage stereotactic radiotherapy, and gold nanoparticles can further enhance the treatment of wet age-related macular degeneration (Wet AMD).

Researchers believe this work could lead to a better understanding of how gold nanoparticles activated by low-energy radiation therapy can act synergistically against cancers, including difficult-to-treat cancers of the eye, without damaging healthy tissue.

Under the grant, scientists at Oraya will collaborate with scientists at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to develop a novel approach to treating Wet AMD that utilizes gold nanoparticles to target neovascular endothelial cells, the key therapeutic target associated with Wet AMD.

Delivered intravenously, the gold nanoparticles will be tagged with a specific protein capable of homing in on and attaching to the diseased lesions in the eye. Low-energy X-rays will then be delivered to the targeted nanoparticles, activating them to release micrometer range electrons that blast the diseased cells. Because the distance travelled by the electrons is so limited, researchers believe there will be little or no damage or toxicity to surrounding tissue.

The research, if successful, could provide a significant advancement in treating cancer, as tumours express particular proteins that can be targeted by nanoparticles. Tumours, including those from eye cancers such as retinoblastoma and choroidal melanoma, are characterized by “leaky” neovascular capillaries, similar to those in Wet AMD. While these cancers are often treated with radiotherapy, researchers believe using low-energy radiation to activate targeted gold nanoparticles could potentially offer a significant boost to the effectiveness of current radiotherapy treatment options because the delivered dose to the tumour could be increased without damaging healthy tissue.

“While research into the applicability of gold nanoparticles for the treatment of cancer is drawing increased interest, we’re particularly excited by the combination of nanoparticles with highly targeted, low energy radiation provided by Oraya Therapy,” said Mike Makrigiorgos, Professor of Medical Physics and Biophysics at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. “With this grant we hope to demonstrate that high concentrations of gold nanoparticles can be targeted to CNV endothelial cells without damaging surrounding ocular tissue, and ultimately pursue further research that could lead to the commercialization of new cancer and Wet AMD treatments.”

Oraya Therapy is uniquely suited to work in tandem with gold nanoparticles because high-Z atoms such as gold preferentially absorb low-energy X-rays, which are then re-emitted as short-range electrons that selectively destroy rapidly-dividing cells such as those in neovascular capillaries. Oraya Therapy utilizes a robotically positioned, laser guided energy delivery system coupled with real time eye tracking, which enables the precise targeting and dose delivery required for the intended research study.

“Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s work to engineer new nanoparticles is compelling,” said Oraya Therapeutics CEO Jim Taylor. “We’re looking forward to a successful collaboration that provides new insights into the exciting field of nanomedicine and the possibilities that radiotherapy and gold nanoparticles offer for treating cancers of the eye and for potential enhancement of radiation treatments for Wet AMD.”

In July the company announced that it was expanding its presence in Europe with Oraya Therapy being offered for the first time at an NHS hospital in the United Kingdom and at four university hospitals in
Germany. Royal Hallamshire Hospital, part of the Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust began treating patients in April.

In Germany, the four centres offering Oraya Therapy are University Hospital Essen, University Hospital Schleswig Holstein Campus Luebeck University Hospital Freiburg, and the Medical Care Centre of the University Hospital of Cologne.

“The adoption of Oraya Therapy at these five sites in the first half of 2014 represents a significant advance for Oraya, and we anticipate the second half of the year will meet or exceed this level of growth,” said Oraya Therapeutics President and CEO Jim Taylor.

“The reception to Oraya Therapy is very positive. An increasing number of patients and physicians are inquiring about this clinically proven and commercially tested therapeutic option. Importantly, these highly respected and centrally located treatment centers offer patients, their families and their physicians a valuable and much-needed option for treating Wet AMD.”

The five new centres join the VistaKlinik in Basel Switzerland, where treatments were first initiated in 2013.

Source: Oraya Therapeutics.


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