Danish biotech company Curasight develops a technology for improved diagnosis and risk evaluation in cancer, most notably for risk stratification in prostate cancer. Further, the technology can be used in radiation therapy to target cancer cells allowing for a milder treatment than conventional radiation therapy. Through an exercise of TO1 series warrants, the company now aims to raise 48.8 MDKK. BioStock had the opportunity to ask CSO and co-founder professor Andreas Kjaer a few questions about the company’s future goals.
Founded in 2013, Curasight is built on more than ten years of research in Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging in cancer at the University of Copenhagen and the National University Hospital of Denmark (Rigshospitalet).
In most PET scans today, sugar molecules are used to help locate the cancer cells. However, this method cannot be used for all purposes, e.g. in prostate cancer, where a tool to avoid unnecessary surgery and complications such as incontinence and impotence is warranted.
This is something Curasight wants to change with the development of uTRACE, a radiolabelled tracing substance that binds to cancer and gives information on its level of aggressiveness. The technology is built around the urokinase-type plasminogen activator receptor (uPAR) protein, which is expressed in high concentrations on aggressive cancer cells but for practical purposes not in healthy tissue.
uTRACE tested in eight phase II clinical trials
uTRACE has been tested for a wide range of cancer types in as many as eight ongoing or completed investigator-initiated phase II clinical trials where positive results have already been observed in e.g. prostate cancer. So far, over 400 patients have been successfully scanned with uTRACE without any major adverse effects and therefore uTRACE can be considered safe.
Successful results for prostate cancer
Most recently, an investigator-initiated prostate cancer phase II clinical study, performed at Rigshospitalet, showed very promising results that were published in the highest ranked scientific journal within nuclear medicine, the Journal of Nuclear Medicine. The aim of the study was to compare results from uTRACE with Gleason score, a pathological grading system based on samples from prostate biopsies. The studied demonstrated a clear correlation between uPAR-PET (uTRACE) and Gleason score indicating that uTRACE scan in the future may replace a large proportion of the invasive biopsies. In particular the study demonstrated that by using a cut-off on uTRACE uptake, it was possible with high precision to identify patients that had non-aggressive disease, which is important as these patients in the future may potentially be saved from overtreatment and unnecessary side effects to surgery, e.g. impotence.
The encouraging results have led Curasight to look into how the company can accelerate development and testing of uPAR-PET in prostate cancer.
uTREAT for the treatment of brain cancer
In addition to the promising results obtained within diagnostics, Curasight is also examining the possibilities of combining the uTRACE imaging system with a short-range radiation therapy, creating the anti-cancer radiotherapy uTREAT. The goal is to develop a system where it is possible to detect and treat cancer and metastases in a much more gentle and efficient way than today’s method of external radiation therapy.
uTREAT has shown promising results in preclinical studies in both prostate and colorectal cancer. Recently, uTREAT was tested in a preclinical study in brain cancer, glioblastoma, in a human tumour cell model. The initial results of biodistribution have been positive and constituted a “green light” for continuing into the next step of development and testing of the technology in brain cancer.
In the US and EU, there are around 30,000 new cases of the aggressive brain cancer, high grade glioma. Most of these patients could potentially benefit from the uTREAT technology if it proves successful in this indication.
New capital for product development
To facilitate further product development and clinical studies, the company is looking to raise up to 48.8 MDKK with the exercise of the TO1 warrant. The subscription is ongoing, and the period ends on October 7.
Comments from Andreas Kjær, CSO at Curasight
To get the company’s views on the latest developments and on the results from the investigator-initiated clinical phase II trials in prostate cancer, BioStock reached out to CSO and co-founder Andreas Kjær.
Andreas, your technology is applicable in several forms of cancer – can you briefly explain why this is the case?
– This is because our technology targets the cancer biomarker uPAR, which is expressed on aggressive cancer cells across cancer types and is involved in the spread of cancer. This is in contrast to many other cancer biomarkers that often are limited to a single type of cancer.
What does the competitive landscape look like for your technology?
– To the best of our knowledge, there are no other companies currently pursuing peptide based uPAR targeting for PET scans and radionuclide therapies. No other companies have uPAR-PET technologies that have been tested clinically in patients.
Where do you see your main future markets for the technology?
– Right now, we see a large potential in prostate cancer and brain cancer. However, as our technologies are not limited to certain cancer types we expect several additional cancer indications to emerge over the next years.
Recently positive phase II results on uTRACE in prostate cancer were published. Could you elaborate a little on those results?
– Certainly, first of all we were proud that the investigator-initiated study was published in the number one nuclear medical journal and furthermore the paper was highlighted as best clinical paper in the issue. The study confirmed our idea that it is possible in a non-invasive manner to evaluate how aggressive a prostate cancer is. This opens for the possibility that uTRACE may be used to risk stratify and follow patients with low grade disease. It is our expectation that such a practice may lead to fewer patients with relatively benign disease being overtreated, e.g. undergoing unnecessary surgery as removal of the prostate gland. This is important as these operations are hampered by a high degree of side effects, such as impotence, in up to 70 per cent, and urinary incontinence.
What is the main focus in the uTRACE and uTREAT projects right now?
– Our main focus on the imaging side is on how we can build on the positive results and accelerate the development of uPAR-PET for use in prostate cancer risk stratification and monitoring. On the therapy side, the main focus is to develop and make ready for human testing the uTREAT technology for brain cancer. Finally, we are continuously monitoring data coming out on other cancer indications and how we may pursue these further opportunities.
The subscription of TO 1 could potentially add 48,8 MDKK. How will you use this money?
– First and foremost, to support and accelerate the programs within brain cancer and prostate cancer – and then we must see what the future will bring in addition.
The content of BioStock’s news and analyses is independent but the work of BioStock is to a certain degree financed by life science companies. The above article concerns a company from which BioStock has received financing.