Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) on December 13, 2010, announced the formation of Photolitec, LLC, a new life-sciences company at RPCI that will develop photosensitizing compounds used in photodynamic therapy (PDT). PDT is an innovative cancer treatment pioneered at RPCI by scientist Thomas J. Dougherty, Chief Emeritus of the Institute's Photodynamic Therapy Center.
The compounds that Photolitec will commercialize, which also have applications in medical imaging, were developed primarily by RPCI researcher Ravindra Pandey, PhD, Distinguished Member of the PDT Center and Director of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at RPCI, and his Roswell Park research group. Dr. Pandey is the founder and Chief Scientific Officer of this new Buffalo-based business.
"Photolitec is the latest of a series of spinoff companies generated by scientific research conducted at Roswell Park," says Donald L. Trump, MD, FACP, President and CEO of RPCI. "In this way, we bring new treatments and discoveries to patients faster, and help boost the local economy by developing the business and investment right here in Buffalo."
A licensing agreement between RPCI and Photolitec covers technology that was developed under Dr. Pandey's leadership at Roswell. "The new company will conduct all the work required by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for initiating the phase I clinical trials," Dr. Pandey says. "These human clinical studies will determine the viability of these novel agents."
PDT is a treatment used for skin, lung, head-and-neck and esophageal cancers, as well as other non-oncological medical conditions. In this therapy, a photosensitive compound is applied directly to the skin or injected intravenously. While healthy cells shed the drugs within a few days, the agents remain heavily concentrated in cancer cells. The tumor is then exposed to an appropriate wavelength of a laser light, which produces a cytotoxic agent within the tumor, causing selective destruction of the cancer cells.
The compounds developed by Dr. Pandey are considered the next generation of PDT agents with imaging capability. They are associated with only limited skin phototoxicity, a major limitation of most PDT compounds — including Photofrin, the standard agent used in PDT. PDT is not currently used for treating large or deep-seated tumors of the body; however, Dr. Pandey says the new long-wavelength-absorbing compounds will help to image and treat deeply-seated tumors.
In addition, the new compounds have the ability to image the tumors through fluorescence and/or nuclear (PET) imaging and offer what Dr. Pandey refers to as "the see and treat approach." Because the drug compounds that collect in cancerous cells work as markers for nuclear imaging, optical imaging or MRI prior to PDT treatment or surgery, or to monitor cancer treatment results, "The drug helps us to identify the tumor and treat it," says Dr. Pandey. These compounds were developed in collaboration with researchers from the University at Buffalo and the University of Michigan.
Roswell Park Cancer Institute