The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research, a newly formed nonprofit organization, announced that its first grant will be awarded to Presage Biosciences to advance CIVO, a drug-development platform that injects therapies and combinations directly into tumors in living patients.
“We are deeply honored to be the inaugural grant award for The Mark Foundation,” Richard Klinghoffer, Presage’s chief scientific officer, said in a press release. “Discovery of effective combinations of immune oncology agents is recognized as key to improving patient outcomes. This project aims to provide a technology to test dozens of potential combinations per patient, with the intent to dramatically accelerate advancement of life saving treatments into the cancer clinic.”
The CIVO platform is a device composed of a microinjector and fluorescent tracking microspheres. The fluorescent microspheres are used to track the delivery of drugs to a specific target area in a tumor.
CIVO currently is being used to deliver tiny doses of drugs (microdoses) directly into tumors, where the body’s fight against cancer actually takes place. The device can deliver different combinations of drugs to different locations in tumors, making it possible to test many combinations of drugs in a single patient.
CIVO is being evaluated in a clinical trial (NCT03056599) to deliver anti-cancer drugs to soft tissue sarcoma tumors in 12 patients.
To date, conventional approaches to precision medicine have failed to achieve the goal of properly identifying patients who respond to a given cancer therapy. It is hoped that CIVO will change that by making it possible to analyze responses to drugs inside the tumors themselves once the CIVO platform has delivered the microdose.
The platform allows the delivery of different drugs, or combination of drugs, into single injection sites. Then, high-resolution analysis allows researchers to assess how a patient’s cancer responds to the drugs, with extensive details on tumor cell death and changes to the tumor microenvironment. It can also detect drugs that work together to enhance anti-cancer abilities.
Presage Biosciences calls CIVO a “functional precision technology” that can also potentially help to better understand the differences in patient responses to cancer treatments.
Another promising detail about CIVO is that it can be used for testing combinations of drugs, because research is increasingly turning to drug combinations for cancer treatment. This is because a majority of patients develop resistance to checkpoint inhibitors, a type of therapy that is effective in certain types of cancer. Checkpoint inhibitors used in combination with other therapies, however, may meet less resistance.
“The development of Presage’s intratumoral microdosing platform is well aligned with The Mark Foundation’s mission of funding groundbreaking cancer research that integrates the discovery of new knowledge in biology with innovative technology solutions,” said Michele Cleary, CEO of The Mark Foundation. “The proven track record of the Presage scientific team in combining a deep understanding of tumor biology with cutting-edge approaches provides us with great confidence that our support of this endeavor will ultimately result in better options for patients with cancer.”