Dr. Riam Shammaa
Chief Executive Officer, IntelliStem Technologies Inc.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada. This year, almost a quarter of a million new cases of cancer have been diagnosed and more than 80,000 people have died of the disease. The statistics are grim but ther’s hope. Canadian scientists have made a breakthrough that could bring down the fatalities.
IntelliStem, a Toronto-based biotechnology company, has genetically engineered stem cells — virgin cells that can develop into many different cell types — to attack cancer cells.
In a recent study, IntelliStem researchers introduced Super Sentinel CellsTM (SSCs) to animals’ cancer cells outside their bodies. In doing so, they programmed the SSCs to find those specific cancer cells. The programmed cells were then separated from the cancer cells and injected into the animals. These SSCs showed the animals’ immune systems where to find, and destroy, the cancerous cells.
The success rate was encouraging: 80% of animals that underwent this procedure survived, whereas only 20% of the animals treated with conventional cell therapy survived. None of the animals who were left untreated lived.
“We ended up with a result that surpassed our expectations,” says Dr. Riam Shammaa, Founder of IntelliStem. “The SSCs were able to train against every cancer we threw at them.”
Dr. Shammaa explains that, because SSCs can learn the signals and antigens of any cancerous cell, they have the capacity to attack any kind of cancer, from lung and skin cancers to prostate cancer and lymphoma.
IntelliStem also conducted preliminary research showing that SSCs may be able to fight drug-resistant infectious diseases, too.
In addition to being more effective than standard cell therapy, treatment with SSCs would provide other advantages, according to Dr. Shammaa.
“Many cancer therapies have toxic effects on the body, which can cause serious side effects, discomfort, and distress, whereas treatment with SSCs wouldn’t. Also, SSCs treatment would be relatively inexpensive,” he says.
For example, CAR-T cell therapy, a treatment in which a patient’s immune system cells are altered so that they bind to cancer cells and kill them, usually costs between $465,000 and $665,000 (CAD) whereas SSCs treatment would be roughly $40,000 to $66,000 (CAD).
Looking ahead to clinical trials
IntelliStem has now completed the final studies before conducting clinical trials in humans for the drug approval process in Canada and the U.S. — establishing a treatment then determining it is not harmful to humans. Dr. Shammaa expects to file for the first clinical trial in humans within the next 12 months.
It’s a massive undertaking, and one that involves a potential cure for many forms of cancer, so IntelliStem started collaborating with cancer centres across the U.S. and is looking to collaborate with research institutions around the world to accelerate the progression of the technology from the lab to the clinic.
Dr. Shammaa anticipates a day when treatment with SSCs, which he describes as “off-the-shelf, personalized medicine,” is available to everyone. “With international support,” he says, “it could be a reality within five years to seven years.”
Comparison of Super Sentinel Cells™ vs. Dendritic Cells vs CAR-T Cells
|Dendritic Cells||CAR-T Cells||Super Sentinel Cells™|
|Treats Blood Tumors||✖️||✓||✓|
|Treats Solid Tumors||✓||✖️||✓|