Brown U. and Johns Hopkins Researchers Form Sentient Bioscience to Improve Liver Cancer Treatment

9/15/09

Most people diagnosed with liver cancer are unlikely to live more than a few years, so there’s plenty of room for new innovative treatments. That’s why Tim Murphy, an interventional radiologist at Rhode Island Hospital and his colleagues at Brown University and Johns Hopkins University have formed Providence, RI-based Sentient Bioscience to develop treatments that will hopefully extend the lives of liver cancer patients.

Sentient revealed last week that it raised its first $250,000 in financing from the Slater Technology Fund, a Providence venture firm, supported by the state government, that invests in startups in the Ocean State. The biotech firm plans to develop embolization therapies that block the vital blood supply to liver tumors and deliver chemotherapy to treat the cancer, according to Murphy.

About 22,600 new cases of liver cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S., and 18,000 people die from it, according to the American Cancer Society. Patients haven’t had many new options until the past couple years, when clinical trials have shown some encouraging results for patients who take Bayer and Onyx Pharmaceuticals’ sorafenib (Nexavar) or Pfizer’s sunitinib (Sutent)—both of which are designed to work partly by blocking the formation of new blood vessels that feed tumors.

Sentient isn’t giving away many details yet about how its embolization treatments will work, making it difficult to draw comparisons to existing tumor embolization therapies offered by Rockland, MA-based BioSphere Medical (NASDAQ:BSMD) and Biocompatibles, headquartered in the U.K. However, we do know that existing embolization therapies for liver cancer such as BioSphere’s product called HepaSphere Microspheres involves the delivery of polymer particles that are supposed to interfere with blood flow through the main artery that supplies the liver. The embolic particles can also carry chemotherapy drugs.

Sentient is developing its own polymer particles, which it plans to use to deliver anti-cancer drugs or work in combination with such treatments. Murphy explained that the firm intends to develop an embolization therapy that improves … Next Page »

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