A Saint Louis startup is trying to change what a cancer diagnosis means with a potentially ground breaking new form of cancer treatment.
According to the American Cancer Society, in the United States there are more than 1.5 million new cases of cancer every year. This disease claims more than 500,000 lives every year in the U.S.
The world headquarters of Immunophotonics is hidden in a modest Central West End workspace. All of the startup’s supply of potential medical breakthrough is squeezed into a miniature fridge.
According to the CEO, “cure” is not the right word to use. Cancer is always going to be around, but there can be more or less effective methods to actually treat it.
Immunophotonics is working to radically change the way cancer is treated. Instead of chemotherapy or radiation, the goal is to develop a cancer vaccine.
The vaccine would be two shots into a tumor intended to train a patient’s body to be allergic to its own cancer, potentially destroying the tumor.
In initial trials outside the U.S. the St. Louis startup had some success treating patients with end stage tumors. Some patients, who initially had just months to live, are now living cancer free just four years later.
For the researchers, these results are not only promising but also riveting to have that kind of impact on people’s lives.
Investors are eager to finance the endeavor, which could be an indication of the company’s odds of success.
Although researchers are reluctant to talk about a timetable for their vaccine, some of the investors expect a return on their investment in about five years.
Immunophontonics is still in the early stages of development and the approval process. The hope is that with more trials, a vaccine could prove to be not only more effective and less invasive, but a less expensive way to treat cancer.
Other researchers in the United States are also working on cancer vaccines.