Sirtex Medical signed an agreement with SingHealth under which researchers from Singapore General Hospital (SGH) and National Cancer Center Singapore (NCCS) will explore the potential of a new technology known as carbon-cage nanoparticles toward the development of a new generation of cancer therapies.

According to the Australian National University, carbon-cage nanoparticles carry a high internal payload of radioactive material while the outer carbon shell is chemically inert and possesses properties for the attachment of cancer-targeting agents or coatings that can impart stealth-like properties to the nanoparticles. Such properties can enhance their ability to evade detection by the immune system, thus improving their ability to target specific cancers.

Carbon-cage nanoparticles are sub-micron size particles of graphitic carbon that encapsulate a metallic core. The technology had its start in Technegas, which was originally invented by Bill Burch, Ph.D., at the Royal Canberra Hospital and the Australian National University in 1984. Technegas has been used in nuclear medicine as an inhalable aerosol of carbon-cage nanoparticles containing a radiologically detectable radioisotope for the diagnosis of blood clots in the lungs.

The agreement will comprise several research projects. The first will evaluate the technology’s use in the treatment of advanced ovarian cancer that has spread within the abdominal and pelvic cavities. A range of other gastrointestinal, hepatobiliary, and female genitourinary cancers may potentially benefit from the new treatment approach.

“Over the past six years Sirtex has been working with the Australian National University to develop a leading position in nanoparticle IP that may be developed for the treatment of human cancers in areas of unmet clinical need,” Gilman Wong, Sirtex’ CEO, said. “This master research collaboration agreement with SingHealth is a milestone in the development of Sirtex’ carbon-cage nanoparticle technology and brings together a leading group of physician scientists from the National Cancer Center of Singapore with a strong track record of transitioning new technologies into the clinic.”

In June of 2010, Sirtex signed an agreement with SGH to determine which of two drugs, sorafenib or SIR-Spheres (a medical device used in interventional oncology to deliver Selective Internal Radiation Therapy (SIRT) to the liver), should be the first-line drug and which the second-line for patients with inoperable liver cancers. The trial was fueled by about $10.2 million—a lump-sum gift of $8.5 million from Sirtex Medical, and $1.65 million to be disbursed over five years from the National Medical Research Council.

Sirtex has also been busy expanding its manufacturing capabilities. In November, they announced plans to establish and commission a manufacturing facility in Germany, which would be completed over the next two years at a cost of $4.5 million. Also, back in August, Sirtex began tripling its manufacturing capacity of SIR-Spheres at its Willmington, MA facility. The company invested approximately $4 million to install two hot cells together with ancillary equipment over 18 months.

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