What We Do
Medicine has been using radiotherapy for the treatment of cancer since shortly after the discovery of X-rays by William Röntgen in 1895. The first physician to treat cancer with X-rays is believed to be Emil Grubbe in Chicago in 1896. Today radiotherapy forms one of the key weapons in the fight against cancer, being used in the treatment of almost 50% of cancer patients in the UK.
It is possible to use high dose radiotherapy to cure certain cancers but there are limitations to the technique. In recent years major advances in tumour imaging along with developments radiotherapy machine design have allowed the increasingly accurate delivery of radiation to complex tumour structures, there is always some off tumour X-ray dose and potential normal tissue damage.
Another issue are oxygen deprived (known as hypoxic) regions of the tumour. Radiotherapy works by focussing high energy X-ray photons on the tumour; these photons then generate highly excited electrons which scatter within the tumour and interact with molecular oxygen to produce superoxide free radicals. Superoxide free radicals then damage cellular components within the tumour inducing cell death. However, large proportions of the tumour are low in oxygen rendering radiotherapy less effective in these areas.
Xerion Healthcare uses nanotechnology to enhance the effects of radiotherapy. Nanoparticles are injected into tumours and generate free radicals by splitting water rather than interacting with oxygen. This allows the hypoxic problem to be addressed and cancer cell killing increased.
Initial targets for the technology are head and neck and pancreatic cancers both of which have unmet clinical needs.