Improving Chemotherapy with CorrectChemo
Everyone is probably familiar with the term “chemotherapy” as it relates to cancer treatment and the images it evokes are not pleasant ones mainly due to all the negative side effects the treatment is known for. One misconception about “chemotherapy” is that it relates to a single drug or method when in fact it refers to a wide range of drugs and methods. Chemotherapy is the process of administering one or more anti-cancer drugs (usually intravenously) to kill cells in the body that divide rapidly, one of the main characteristics of cancer cells. It is one of the major categories of cancer treatment with nearly all chemotherapy regimens using multiple drugs. Chemotherapy is a “big money” business with the top-10 chemotherapy drugs bringing in revenues of over $37 billion in 2013.
One of the challenges of administering chemotherapy is determining which drug combinations to use and the size of the corresponding doses. Different drugs have different side effects which vary by individual. Administer too much of the drug and the drugs can be toxic to the patient while too low of a dosage will be ineffective. One company that is looking to improve the accuracy of chemotherapy is Diatech Oncology with their CorrectChemo assay.
About Diatech Oncology and CorrectChemo
Diatech Oncology, the company behind CorrectChemo, first began clinical studies 10 years ago with their technology platform called the MiCK® Assay, which is now marketed as CorrectChemo. Diatech has the exclusive and perpetual licensing rights for this technology which was developed by researchers at Vanderbilt University. In June 2013, Diatech completed an $18 million equity financing round without disclosing who the backers were.
CorrectChemo® and How it Works
The CorrectChemo Assay, developed by DiaTech, is the only diagnostic test available that identifies, within 72 hours, how effective a variety of chemotherapy drugs may be in killing specific cancer cells through analyzing a biopsy of the cancer. This patient-specific cancer testing allows oncologists to develop a treatment plan tailored to each patient’s chemotherapy needs.
Here’s how it works. The physician calls CorrectChemo three days prior to a biopsy and the specimen collection kit will be shipped directly to the physician’s office. A biopsy then needs to be performed to obtain at least 1.5 cm3 of viable tissue with more tissue meaning more chemo agents can be tested. The physician then ships the specimen overnight to CorrectChemo and in most cases, results are available within three to four days of their receiving the specimen in the laboratory. The results are in the form of a report that shows which drug combinations will be the most effective against your particular type of cancer.
Diatech claims that CorrectChemo can benefit up to 85% of patients tested and that they have validated more than a 150% increase in survival rates across all cancer types through their own research studies. In 2012, a paper was published in the Journal of Translation Medicine which showed a 62% increase in survival rate (45 months versus 24 months) and improvements in recurrence in a study of 150 individuals with ovarian cancer. The paper went on to say:
Since the CorrectChemo assay indicates which drugs are associated with improved survival, it is possible that use of the assay may reduce healthcare costs by avoiding inactive therapies. Results of studies have been used to model potential cost savings in care of cancer patients in a large self-insured employer database. The study indicated possible cost savings of 25-85% of chemotherapy expenses.
The company provides some medical studies that help back up their claims as well as 12 medical publications that validate the effectiveness of their CorrectChemo assay. Diatech Oncology has processed more than 1,500 tests since 2004. In addition to offering their test directly to patients, Diatech is also offering drug development services for pharma companies to help them create new chemotherapy drugs, drug combinations, and non-chemotherapy drugs.
In the past, we highlighted Foundation Medicine (NASDAQ:FMI), a company that offers a similar biopsy analysis service but searches for genetic alterations instead that can then be targeted by specific drugs. This type of genomic testing surprisingly generates results that can be helpful for only between 8 to 13% of patients. CorrectChemo, on the other hand, benefits up to 85% of patients tested. Diatech Oncology seems to have a compelling value proposition that increases lifespans and reduces costs. Having raised a relatively small amount of capital so far, it will be interesting to see if Diatech looks for additional financing to scale their operation or perhaps partners with a company that can give them quick access to a sales team and distribution channels.
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