Immunolight has created what we believe will be a paradigm shift in the treatment of cancer. If you got cancer 40 years ago there were 3 primary treatment options – surgery, chemo, and radiation. Today there have clearly been advances in all three, but cancer remains a very, very significant medical, emotional and financial plague on society. Our highest priority at Immunolight is to translate innovations in energy conversion, our core technology, into developing new possibilities for targeted therapies to treat cancer.
Our lead approach to this paradigm shift is based on an ancient drug, psoralen. Psoralen’s root can be traced to the ancient Egyptians, who recognized it was activated by UV light and used it as a treatment for skin disorders.
In the era of modern medicine, psoralen has been used as a front line treatment for refractory psoriasis. In that application, patients took the drug orally and stood in a UV light box. The psoralen that was in the psoriatic lesion was activated by the light hitting the skin and in many cases induced a robust, lasting effect.
Psoralen has also been used in a procedure called photopheresis, developed for the treatment of Cutaneous T Cell Lymphoma, a malignancy of the blood. In that application, because UV light can’t penetrate tissue, blood cells were removed from the patient, exposed to psoralen and UV light, and reinfused back to the patient. Although only a tiny percent of diseased cells were directly treated outside the body, robust systemic clinical effects were seen, suggesting some sort of amplification of an immune response may be occurring. Although the exact mechanism of how this happens has been studied extensively for over 20 years, it remains elusive.
In our lead application for the treatment of solid tumors, we seek to activate psoralen inside the tumor in an attempt to generate an immune reaction against the tumor, and possibly systemically to other areas. In order to do this, because UV light can’t penetrate tissue it must be generated inside the tumor. To accomplish this we innovated tiny particles that can absorb energies that are capable of penetrating tissues (such as low dose X ray), and convert them into UV light, which in turn can activate the psoralen inside the tumor. Once activated, the psoralen kills the cell in a pathway that generates the immune response seen with the previous psoralen based applications.
It is our hope this therapy will represent an alternative treatment for cancer whose hallmark will be a non-invasive, immune based treatment that does not involve the introduction of cytotoxic agents used in conventional chemotherapy, thus eliminating the devastating, life altering side effects of current therapies.