BioCancell Raises Funds for Its One-cell-at-a-time Cancer Treatment

BioCancell has developed technology for the targeted elimination of cancerous tumors. The development came in a research project led by Prof. Avraham Hochberg, who has published 95 articles on the subject.

Avi Barak, CEO of Yissum, Hebrew University's Research and Development company that is one of BioCancell's backers, said that BioCancell has begun a round of financing aimed at raising $3-6 million from private investors. Barak heads the university's R&D commercialization process, and explains that the funding will probably come more from private and strategic investors and less from venture capital funds.

Cancer is now the number two killer in the western world, second only to old age. In the United States alone, some 600,000 people die of cancer annually, and one in two men and one in three women are considered to be at risk of developing some type of cancer.

Hochberg has discovered a gene that is found in fetuses, disappears after birth, and reappears in huge quantities in over 30 types of cancer.

"We have developed a method for detecting cancerous tumors that contain this gene,"

Hochberg says. "The method is so precise that it allows us to see a single cancer cell in tissue, using inexpensive and quick computer technology."

Doctors currently fight cancer via radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. Hochberg calls the DNA-based methods "non-conventional weapons," and his technology is part of innovative therapy.

BioCancell also has developed a drug for destroying the cancer gene based on the operating mechanism of the gene identified by Hochberg. The drug contains diphtheria toxin, the strongest toxin known to science, and plasmid DNA, which will cause the toxin to attack only the cancer cells that contain the gene, while leaving the surrounding cells unharmed.

"Fortunately, the whole population was immunized against diphtheria during childhood," Hochberg says. "When the drug is introduced into cells containing the caner gene, the toxin is activated and the cancer cells are destroyed."

This therapy has been tried on patients with advanced bladder cancer, producing effective results with no side effects. At this stage BioCancell is applying to American and Israeli health authorities for approval for broader use of the therapy in human beings. The first trial will be with 15 patients, the second with about 35, and the third with hundreds of patients.

BioCancell produces the drug in its own labs. The company has registered a series of patents on the gene, which is now completely patent-protected. Thus far, $7 million mostly from grants and donations raised by Hochberg's lab has been invested in the drug's development.