Sunday, December 26, 2010

Hyperthermia, Radiofrequency, and Microwaves: The Future of Cancer Therapeutics

Recently I heard about a forward thinking biotech company called BSD Medical (BSDM).  The company designs systems that deliver radiofrequency or microwave energy to precise targets within the body, primarily tumors located near the surface of the skin.  They also have systems to reach deeper tumors.  I was excited researching this company as I have worked on some projects involving hyperthermia therapy for cancer treatment.  Unlike BSDM, I worked with superoxide  iron nanoparticles and carbon nanotubes.  Our plan was to use MRI or some other form of external rotating magnet field to help target and then heat up and destroy cancer cells.  We hypothesized that we could heat and destroy tumors while leaving normal surrounding tissue unharmed.

The BSDM  website explains that their hyperthermia technology treat cancer with heat and boost the efficacy of radiation therapy.  BSDM's website explains that the immediate environment surrounding tumors (acidic and low amount of oxygen) causes radiation to be ineffective while microwave therapy is enhanced in this environment.  Since cancer patients are usually treated with multiple forms of therapy: drugs (chemotherapy), surgery, and radiation, BSDM's system can easily be added onto standard treatment protocols to increase effectiveness.  The microwave therapy is utilized in tumor ablation therapies in which soft tissue is vaporized.

Reasons that I AM excited about BSDM:
  1. Novel form of therapy.  Expect BSD Medical to maintain a large share of the market for several years.
  2. The technology can be combined with other conventional forms.  As briefly mentioned before, cancer patients are routinely treated with different forms of treatment.  Microwave technology can be used as a primary form of treatment, used before surgery to reduce the size of the tumor so surgeons can more easily remove it, or it can be used after surgery to kill any remaining cancer cells.
  3. Drug resistance is a ever-present concern when treating cancer.  There is less concern of resistance to microwave and radiofrequency therapies, but this must be kept in mind.
  4. BSDM is also beginning to supply its systems for worldwide distribution.  This is very exciting because physicians and healthcare practitioners overseas tend to be more welcoming to novel forms of cancer therapy than their counterparts in the USA.  An example is the I-SPY clinical trials for breast cancer therapies.  It was a novel way of performing clinical trials and has a novel paradigm of treating breast cancer.  It was only recently started in the USA. 
Reasons that I AM NOT excited about BSDM:
  1. The adoption of therapy may be slow.  Physicians, especially older ones, are reluctant to try new agents let alone novel forms of therapy.  When dealing with cancer, you can bet that a new form of therapy will be met with some resistance.  BSDM does hold training events and their success will be do in part to educating physicians about their technology.
  2. The technology is new and it will take several years to better understand the mechanisms.  In addition, we do not know of all side effects and long term detrimental effects.  
  3. In addition to convincing physicians to use their technology, BSDM will need to convince patients to use microwave or radiofrequency treatments.  Patients are now involved more in their treatments than ever before.  BSDM will need to focus on patient education.  The website does a decent job providing patient information.
  4. Insurance companies will need to cover the expense of treatment.  They are the more difficult to convince.

 Recommendation: BSDM is buy-strong buy.  I love where the company is heading.  This is not some biotech company that is focused on treating rare conditions that only effects a thousand or so patients and design drugs that have prohibitive costs and that insurance companies will not even consider covering.  There is a very high ceiling and this is the best time to buy BSDM.       

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