Nobel prizewinner Ciechanover hails ‘much more precise’ cancer treatment
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With multi-center clinical trials in Israel, US and UK, Israeli startup OncoHost hopes to launch life-saving test kit in 2021
Immunotherapy, one of the most promising treatments for cancer, can cost up to $100,000 per patient – and choosing the wrong course of treatment can actually expand, rather than shrink, a tumor. OncoHost, an Israeli startup, is tackling these challenges with its PROphet test kit, which exposes the key proteins in the blood, and indicates if a treatment is the right match for a patient.
“They can really profile the patients into groups of patients that will respond to the treatment, and those that will not respond. It looks rather promising,” said Aaron Ciechanover, Nobel laureate in chemistry and distinguished research professor in the faculty of medicine at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, who is a member of OncoHost’s board of scientific advisers.
“The idea is to predict ahead of time biological markers in the treatment of tumors,” Prof. Ciechanover said. “As we know, people are different from one another. Each of us reacts differently from different drugs. The idea is to find a profile of proteins and other components that will predict with high certainty whether the treatment that you are giving a patient will be successful or not.”
“Until now, cancer treatment has been what I call one size fits all. We bombarded the patient with chemotherapy, radiotherapy, with enormous side effects,” Ciechanover said. “Now we are narrowing it. We are going to be much more precise. We are going to provide treatment that has much less side effects. And we may discover new pathways that are involved in carcinogenesis, enabling us to develop new drugs.”
OncoHost revolutionizes immunotherapy treatment by testing the blood of immunotherapy patients for specific protein types. It then uses machine learning to comb through the data of thousands of patient blood profiles, identifying how different patterns of proteins were associated with success in various immunotherapy treatments.
So if certain proteins are present, the patient’s therapy will work. But if other protein signatures are present, the specific immunotherapy will not be effective. Until now, selecting immunotherapy for a cancer patient has been based on trial and error. But OncoHost’s PROphet now gives the oncologist a firm indicator to determine which type of treatment will work.
“In cancer, time can be the difference between life and death,” said Ofer Sharon, CEO of OncoHost. “And the timing of the decision making is critical. The sooner you take the decision, the sooner you can identify the right treatments for your patients, the better the odds are for that patient. This is where the main benefit is.”
OncoHost’s scientists and mathematicians are now creating a massive database of protein signatures indicating which immunotherapy will work in a given person and which will not.
“Currently we are running multi-center clinical trials,” Sharon said. “We have presence in all of the clinical cancer centers in Israel and we are working with very strong cancer centers in the US. We are soon also opening sites in the UK and hopefully other countries as well. We have very broad access globally.”
OncoHost plans to bring its PROphet test kit to the market before the end of 2021, hoping that the test could save the lives of thousands of cancer patients as well as millions of dollars spent on unnecessary treatment.
“Proteomic analysis is allowing us to make great advances in personalized cancer care. With OncoHost’s host response profiling platform, the future of personalized cancer care is no longer a distant reality, but within our grasp,” Ciechanover said.