Sön 5 dec / År 39 / Nr 4 2021

A gamechanger in cancer diagnostics and treatment

The Lund-based Swedish company Spago Nanomedical may change everything we previously believed possible when it comes to cancer diagnostics and treatment.

Ever since the company was founded in 2007, Spago Nanomedical has developed nanomaterials for improved cancer diagnostics and treatment. The initial invention was based on the use of gadolinium-based nanoparticles as a contrast agent for MRI.
However, after the finding that gadolinium was linked with a serious and non-treatable side effect; nephrogenic systemic fibrosis, in patients with impaired kidney function, the company moved towards a different focus. Namely on manganese, which has high-contrast enhancement on MRI. This became the basis for the company’s imaging product SpagoPix back in 2011. In 2014, Spago Nanomedical began development of its next product, the tumour-selective radionuclide therapy Tumorad®.

Close to licensing SpagoPix
SpagoPix, Spago Nanomedical’s cancer selective MRI contrast agent, has moved through its first clinical trial including around 20 breast cancer patients.
The nanoparticles are tumour-selective because of the enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect in tumours, a phenomenon leading to accumulation of particles of a certain size in tumour tissue. The study has thoroughly documented the product’s safety and ability to enhance MRI images.
The main study objectives were to investigate safety of SpagoPix as well as ability to improve MR images in breast cancer patients.
“Our aim is to outlicense SpagoPix based on clinical data, and any early proof-of-principal results from this study will steer our licensing discussions. As well as providing funding, this could begin our shift towards becoming a therapeutics company”, says Mats Hansen, Spago Nanomedical CEO.
SpagoPix’s clinical development has been supported by grants from the Swedish government agency for innovation Vinnova.

Hoping to make a difference
With SpagoPix successfully delivering in clinical trials, Spago can direct more focus to Tumorad®. The treatment is made up of nanoparticles loaded with radionuclides. Tumorad® could have therapeutic potential in a range of soft tissue tumours, and may be complementary or even synergistic with other approaches to cancer treatment such as immunotherapy.
“As a small organisation we had to focus on one product initially. As SpagoPix is now in the hands of a CRO, we can spend more time on our second product. Our aim is to design nanoparticles that have a half-life in vivo that matches that of the radioisotope, and we now have a prototype”, says Mats Hansen.
Preclinical proof-of-concept studies have started, and in addition, Spago Nanomedical may also carry out phase 0 microdose trials with Tumorad®, where very small doses are used that can still be traced. This would get the agent into the clinic and generate pharmacokinetic data from humans at an early stage.
The development of both SpagoPix and Tumorad® may dramatically change the way cancer diagnostics and treatments are conducted.