Portsmouth company on a mission to fight cancer
Mike Ambogi, chief operating officer for Novocure in Portsmouth demonstrates how the company's TTF therapy works. (GRETYL MACALASTER PHOTO)
Fast forward 13 years, and Palti's theories have not only been proven but are being used to treat patients with a particularly deadly type of brain cancer.
Until now, most treatments focused on the biochemical aspects of the body, which means treatments affect both healthy and cancerous cells, leading to many negative side effects.
"If we can affect that with some specificity, we can essentially stop the tumor from growing," said Mike Ambrogi, chief operating officer for Novocure. "It is a completely different approach to affecting cancer."
Currently, TTF therapy has been approved for patients with a recurring form of glioblastoma, or GBM, the most common form of primary brain cancer, and the most malignant.
Clinical trials of TTF began on humans in 2003, and in 2011, after a large-scale trial, the FDA approved the limited use of TTF therapy for recurrent GBM.
The number of patients whose tumors shrunk by 50 percent was twice as many as those treated by chemotherapy, although the numbers were still small, 14 patients versus seven, Ambrogi said.
Now there are numerous other trials underway, both large and small, to test the treatment on other kinds of cancer, including lung, ovarian, prostate and other forms of brain cancer. The company is also seeking approval for newly diagnosed GBM patients.
Novocure just expanded its operational headquarters for the United States on Commerce Way from 10,000 to 23,000 square feet. About 45 people work out of the Portsmouth office, which also serves as a training center for field technicians spread out around the country to help patients and physicians learn how to use the therapy.
The durable equipment is manufactured in Israel, and the arrays are manufactured in California.
The risk was whether Novocure could attract the right people to run what is truly both a medical device and an oncology company, but that has never been a problem.
He said he expects the therapy to be approved for new applications soon.
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