Radiation therapy has one mission: to kill. Although its knack for destruction makes it an effective cancer treatment, organs that are located close to the tumor site may suffer as well. If there were a way to move organs apart during treatment, and to clearly identify remaining cancer cells following tumor resection surgery, radiation could be more effectively directed to the tumor site.
Augmenix of Waltham, Mass., seeks to address these unmet clinical needs with its injectable, degradable hydrogel to aid radiation oncologists. The company’s SpaceOAR System is designed to temporarily separate organs during radiotherapy so that normal tissues are spared, and to mark tumor resection sites to allow for targeted therapy.
In the case of prostate cancer, the gel can be used to separate the rectum from the prostate during radiation therapy. Most prostate cancers affect a region of the prostate that is adjacent to the rectum. Radiation hitting the rectum can cause complications such as bleeding, diarrhea, and pain–complications that may follow the patient for the rest of his life. According to Augmenix General Manager Bradley Poff, the company expects to reduce radiation doses to the rectum by 70 percent.
The gel also has applications in lumpectomies for breast cancer patients. It may be used as a 3-D marker for tumor resection sites, allowing the physician to direct the radiation at leftover tumor cells.
Given the variety of clinical applications and a lack of competitors, Poff estimates the total market opportunity for Augmenix to be up to $1.5 billion. In the following video, Poff discusses the company’s platform with OneMedTV correspondent Alicia Ontiveros at the 2010 OneMedForum.