In an era where cutting-edge science is radically transforming the healthcare landscape, Spago Nanomedical has garnered significant attention with its radionuclide cancer therapy project Tumorad. This initiative aims to provide a ground-breaking alternative in cancer treatment. To learn more about Tumorad’s potential, BioStock reached out to Spago’s CEO Mats Hansen for an interview.
Lund-based Spago Nanomedical has carved a space for itself in the field of oncology by focusing on the development of nanomaterials for cancer diagnostics and treatment. Its Tumorad project is among its most promising ventures, demonstrating a fusion of nanotechnology and oncology to address some of the most pressing challenges in cancer care.
The Tumorad project
So-called radionuclide therapy (RNT) is quickly becoming a valid alternative or complement to existing cancer treatment, especially in cases of aggressive cancers. This type of therapy is the basis for Spago Nanomedical’s Tumorad project, where the clinically validated radioisotope Lutetium-177 is combined with Spago’s functional nanoparticles to generate the drug candidate 177Lu-SN201.
Through the so-called EPR effect (enhanced permeability and retention), the nanoparticles are able to selectively target tumour tissue and facilitate local radiation without seriously affecting healthy tissue. The physiological nature of nanoparticle accumulation makes indiscriminate towards specific tumour biology, so Tumorad could potentially be applicable to several cancer types. Moreover, according to Spago, this technology has the potential to make cancer treatments more efficient while minimising damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
»The EPR effect has been clinically documented in a number of soft tissue solid tumors, e.g. colorectal, breast, pancreas and ovarian, which means the total potential target population for the Tumorad candidate drug 177Lu-SN201 is tremendous. In addition, we believe that treatment with 177Lu-SN201 in combination with other agents, e.g. PARP inhibitors, could open further possibilities for expansion« — Mats Hansen, CEO Spago Nanomedical
Just last week, the company received the approval from the Australian authorities to start a phase I/IIa study with 177Lu-SN201 in advanced cancer. The aim of the study is to validate the efficacy and safety of this technology. The trial will be conducted in Australia, and patient enrolment is expected to start immediately after study approval. Preliminary results have shown promising signs, including increased targeting accuracy and reduced side effects. Read more here.
Significant market potential
According to Precedence Research, the global cancer therapeutics market size is predicted to surpass USD 366 billion by 2030 and grow at a CAGR of 9.1 per cent from 2022 to 2030. Tumorad offers a proposition that could allow Spago to position itself in this booming sector. The technology promises to add a layer of precision and effectiveness that existing treatments often lack.
A technology that cannot be ignored
While the journey from the lab to the market is fraught with hurdles, Spago Nanomedical’s Tumorad potential for improving cancer treatment outcomes and patient quality of life cannot be ignored.
In recent years, interest has grown in this type of technology. Large pharmaceutical companies have made significant investments in the area. Learn more. Novartis leads the way with several deals made since 2017 to gain access to nanotherapeutic technology platforms and pipeline candidates. Read more.
But Novartis is not alone. Earlier this month, Eli Lilly entered into a definitive agreement to acquire POINT Biopharma for approximately USD 1.4 billion, in a move designed to broaden its oncology portfolio with the addition of radioligand therapies. Meanwhile, in September, Peptidream and Genentech, a Roche Holding company, signed a deal worth up to USD 1 billion to discover and develop macrocyclic peptide-radioisotope (peptide-RI) drug conjugates.
Investors also want in on the radionuclide action. US-based biotech Mariana Oncology closed of an oversubscribed175 MUSD Series B financing round with several major investment firms participated, including Deep Track Capitaland Forbion, both of which specialise in the life science sector. Shortly thereafter, radiopharmaceuticals-focused RayzeBio, also based in the US, greatly exceeded its IPO expectations when it raked in USD 311 million instead of an expected USD 210 million.
As the world continues to seek improved options for cancer care, Tumorad could very well make a name for itself in the oncology space, providing Spago with a substantial market opportunity. The project, thus, warrants close attention from investors, healthcare providers, and patients alike.
BioStock reached out to Spago’s CEO Mats Hansen to get his take on Tumorad’s potential.
Mats, how does radionuclide therapy stand out compared to other forms of cancer therapy like immunotherapy, for example?
– Most types of cancer pharmaceuticals are dependent on molecular interaction with cancer cells, and sometimes transport into the cell nucleus, in order to be effective. This makes them more sensitive to molecular and cellular heterogeneity which is a common cause of treatment resistance.
Radioactivity offers a different way to attack tumors by means of ionizing radiation, which is well-proven and effective, sometimes even curative, and one of the established pillars of therapy against cancer.
If we can safely deliver a suitable source of radiation, e.g. by means of a radioactive and clinically validated isotope like lutetium-177, close to tumours and metastases we essentially know that it will have a therapeutic effect.
How does this translate in market potential for Tumorad?
– With Tumorad, we developed a way to deliver radioactivity to tumours more independent of their molecular constitution. This means we could be able to treat cancers that cannot be targeted with other agents and thus expand the scope of radiopharmaceuticals. The EPR effect has been clinically documented in a number of soft tissue solid tumors, e.g. colorectal, breast, pancreas and ovarian, which means the total potential target population for the Tumorad candidate drug 177Lu-SN201 is tremendous. In addition, we believe that treatment with 177Lu-SN201 in combination with other agents, e.g. PARP inhibitors, could open further possibilities for expansion.
Can Tumorad be considered a personalised therapy?
– Given that radioactivity can be imaged and measured in the body there is certainly opportunity to make it personal. For instance, one could envision using the initial dose (therapeutic or sub-therapeutic) to track the distribution of 177Lu-SN201 in the body of an individual patient. That information could then be used to guide further treatment. Another way could be to develop a separate diagnostic based on the same type of particles as Tumorad, or even make use of our own candidate MRI contrast agent SN132D (SpagoPix).
Our current base case is however that 177Lu-SN201 will be used independently of prior diagnostic screening.
How does it position itself compared to competitors like Novartis?
– With Tumorad, we developed a way to deliver radioactivity to tumours cells more independent of their molecular constitution. This means we could offer a means to treat tumours that are not possible to treat with molecularly or metabolically targeted agents. In that sense the Tumorad candidate drug 177Lu-SN201 have the potential to be used more broadly and expand the benefit of therapeutic radiation to many more cancer patients.
We have seen increased interest in RNT technology in the last few years, including some prominent examples just in the last few weeks. Has this helped put more eyes on Spago Nanomedical as well?
– We certainly noted the increasing interest and investments, and generally sense an interest in our activities with Tumorad from both specialist investors and the industry.
The recent deals and financing rounds in the field, for example by Eli Lilly, Mariana Oncology and RayzeBio, also further underscores that the radiopharmaceutical field is currently hot, and that specialist investors as well as Big Pharma have strong belief in it translating into major clinical benefits and return on investments.
Finally, with Tumorad having received the green light from the Australian authorities to enter the clinic, does this provide momentum for a potential partnership further on?
– Initiation of the first clinical trial is indeed a major milestone for Spago Nanomedical. In general, as clinical results emerge visibility increases and discussions with specialist investors and potential partners tend to get more interesting. With a radioactive drug like 177Lu-SN201 we have the possibility to trace it through the human body by means of imaging even at low doses and we aim to make use of this to obtain early results that can actually be predictive of the benefit-risk profile. If those data are positive, I believe we are in a very good position.