Israeli start-up creates new tech to target internal solid tumors

CAPS Medical uses Cold Atmospheric Plasma (CAP) technology that is usually used to treat superficial solid tumors to now target solid internal organ tumors.

A prototype of CAPS Medical's device, which aims to target internal organ tumors using Cold Atmospheric Plama (photo credit: CAPS MEDICAL)
A prototype of CAPS Medical's device, which aims to target internal organ tumors using Cold Atmospheric Plama
(photo credit: CAPS MEDICAL)
CAPS Medical, an Or Yehuda based start-up, has innovated Cold Atmospheric Plasma (CAP) technology, usually used to treat superficial solid tumors, to now target solid, internal organ tumors.
Current CAP devices have simply been too large to do this, so they have primarily been used to treat superficial tumors, or in open surgeries – but CAPS Medical is changing the game in how this technology is used by creating a device small enough to administer the treatment on solid tumors inside the body.
According to the start-up’s CEO, Ilan Uchitel, its device, which was developed in a collaboration between the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology and the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa “is the first to enable CAP treatment in minimally invasive procedures, using small-diameter disposable catheters on internal solid tumor types.”
Born in 2018, CAPS Medical currently operates under the MEDX Xelerator incubator in Or Yehuda.
“The first thing to understand about our device is the technology upon which it is based,” Uchitel told The Jerusalem Post recently. “Cold Atmospheric Plasma involves the application of a stream of high-energy ionized gas aimed at tumors. CAP is administered at near-room temperature, which means it doesn’t cause thermal damage to tissue.”
He said the most important thing to know is that CAP “is able to selectively fight cancer cells while preserving the surrounding healthy cells,” stressing that this technological approach is backed by over 15 years of scientific evidence supporting the efficacy of the treatment on various cancer types.
“Right now, the holy grail of cancer therapy has been finding a way to maximize damage to the cancer tumor while minimizing damage to the healthy tissue surrounding it,” he explained. “This goal has been elusive – yet so important – when treating vital organs deep inside the body.”
With the current devices being too large, CAPS Medical’s device “is the first to enable CAP treatment in minimally invasive procedures using small-diameter disposable catheters, on internal solid tumor types.”
According to Uchitel, the innovation that resulted from the collaboration was the ability to produce CAP “at the tip of a flexible small diameter tube-like device. “The device,” he said, “is designed to allow access tumors on internal organs without harming surrounding essential tissue for the first time.”
Asked how it works, Uchitel said that CAP generates “reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, which selectively puts stress on cancer cells specifically.
“This causes cancer cell death and then triggers an immune response in the body that specifically targets additional cancer cells in the surrounding area in a cascade effect,” he highlighted. This essentially triggers the body’s own immune system to fight cancer cells “without damaging surrounding healthy tissue.”
Addressing the tumors they are targeting, Uchitel said they are first focusing on Non-Muscle Invasive Bladder Cancer (NMIBC), “which impacts 500,000 plus patients in the US alone.”
He said this type of cancer has the highest cost per patient cancer type, costing the healthcare system an estimated $120,000 per patient.
“In the future, we will also treat lung, pancreatic, liver and brain tumors,” he added.
Asked about the difference between the start-up’s treatment and liquid nitrogen in cryotherapy, Uchitel said “the key difference between CAP technology and something like liquid nitrogen and other technologies that ablate tissue, is our selectivity.
“Freezing the tumor with liquid nitrogen in cryotherapies destroys the whole area of the tumor and surrounding the tumor, killing healthy and vital tissue in addition to the cancerous tissue,” he continued. “CAP, on the other hand, triggers a selective immune response, which targets cancer cells only, preserving the surrounding healthy tissue.”
Uchitel made it clear that this technology will change the face of tumor treatment because it is “designed to treat internal solid tumor types in minimally invasive procedures without harming surrounding tissue and selectively killing cancer cells.
“The side effects of this treatment are minimal,” he emphasized. He highlighted that current cancer treatments damage surrounding healthy tissue, and they cause significant side effects in the patient.
“This is typically how we think of harsh chemotherapy treatments and their associated side effects,” he said.
Discussing when this technology could become available, Uchitel said they have just appointed two prominent key opinion leaders to our scientific advisory board, Dr. Yair Lotan, chief of Urologic Oncology at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, and Dr. Zohar Dotan, head of the Urologic Oncology at Sheba Medical Center.
“They will be helping CAPS define our clinical strategy aimed towards FDA clearance,” he said.
The initial clinical trials will likely begin in Israel, led by Dr. Dotan, at the beginning of 2021, he said.
“We should be ready for commercialization of the treatment by the end of 2022,” Uchitel added.
Uchitel said they are expecting to expand their team over 2020, and are also working toward implementing their clinical strategy.
“[We are] progressing with our research and development to develop the next generation of our device,” he said, concluding that their goal is to begin clinical trials at sites both in Israel and the US in early 2021.