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Seattle Company's Device Aims To Speed Research By Testing Multiple Drugs In Living Tumors

Presage Biosciences
The CIVO drug delivery device can inject eight different drugs or drug combinations into a person's living tumor.

A Seattle company hopes its device will accelerate the development of cancer drugs by letting scientists test multiple drugs simultaneously within a person’s living tumor.

The device, called a CIVO, uses eight micro-needles to inject a tumor with microdoses of multiple cancer drugs. Doctors then would be able test the effects of eight different drugs at once, saving research time.

“What CIVO enables you to do is to have essentially multiple shots on goal,” said Rich Klinghoffer, Chief Scientific Officer of Presage Biosciences which developed the CIVO from research at the Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

New research on mice, dogs and a handful of human lymphoma patients shows the microdoses can give scientists a good idea of what a full does would do, but with little risk from side effects. Because most potential cancer drugs are dead-ends, Klinghoffer said, there is a great benefit expanding a test while speeding the process along.

“Nine out of ten times, drugs look good in preclinical or nonhuman settings, [but] those drugs provide no benefit to patients in the clinic,” Klinghoffer said.

The CIVO looks like a thick magic marker with an array of eight needles at the end. Each needle delivers a microdose of a different drug directly into a person’s tumor (it is designed to work on tumors close to the skin).

The dose, about 1/20th the volume of a raindrop, is deposited in a vertical column. The tissue can then be cut out and analyzed later to see how each drug did at killing cancer cells.

It is designed as a research tool to help scientists develop better drugs, but Klinghoffer said it also has great potential for personalized medicine: With CIVO, an oncologist could see which drug produces the best responses in an individual person’s actual tumor.

A study of the CIVO published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.