San Diego's Avelas Biosciences closed a $7.65 million Series A round of financing.
Avelas will use the funding to advance the Avelas Cancer Illuminator (ACI) toward clinical studies for the visualization of cancerous lymph nodes in breast cancer patients.
The company is funded by Avalon Ventures and founded on technology generated by Nobel Prize winning scientist Roger Tsien, Ph.D.
During breast cancer surgery, in addition to excising tumor tissue, surgeons often remove the lymph node or nodes that drain the primary tumor, called the sentinel lymph nodes. These lymph nodes are sent to pathologists who perform studies to understand whether metastasis has occurred. If the resected nodes are found to contain metastatic tissue, additional lymph nodes in the armpit may be removed to help contain the cancer, a procedure associated with side effects, including numbness, weakness, or swelling of limbs affected by the lymph node resection. In addition to these risks, nodal resection typically occurs as a second surgical procedure, which carries all the risks of surgery such as reactions to general anesthesia, infection or delayed healing.
Avelas' ACI technology allows for the real-time diagnosis of metastatic nodes, allowing surgeons to make a decision to remove additional nodes during the first surgery as opposed to waiting for pathology reports and undergoing a subsequent surgical procedure. Even in those cases where intraoperative pathology is used, the process is time consuming, potentially adding 40 minutes to the duration of the procedure.
"The medical community is under immense pressure to reduce costs and improve patient outcomes," said Jay Lichter, Ph.D., CEO of Avelas. "With high surgical procedure costs and operating rooms costs coming in over $60 per minute, it is clear that advances that reduce a patient's time in the OR are needed. A technology like ACI has the potential to accelerate the procedure for breast cancer surgery and reduce the number of times a patient is required to return to surgery to remove additional lymph nodes."
In preclinical studies ACI has demonstrated high in vivo diagnostic sensitivity and specificity for detecting multiple rodent breast cancer metastases in lymph nodes and in ex vivo studies with human breast cancer patient tissue. By enabling real-time visualization of lymph node metastases and potentially the primary tumor in breast cancer, ACI has the potential to significantly improve surgical staging and decrease cancer-positive margins, the presence of which leads to reoperations.