GammaTile Therapy was developed in 2011 by five brain tumor specialists at the Barrow Neurological Institute (BNI) in Phoenix. As they told yet another patient with a previously-treatable brain tumor that surgery was no longer possible, they became desperate for a solution. Surgery was not an option because of patients’ prior External Beam Radiation Treatments (EBRT). EBRT treatments can cause serious damage to the brain, making additional treatments too high risk.
Elevating the standard of care
The standard of care for patients with operable brain tumors in 2011 was the same as it is today. Surgery is scheduled with a goal of “maximal” resection of the tumor. This means the neurosurgeon attempts to remove as much tumor tissue as possible without damaging remaining healthy brain cells. With this approach, patients recover for a day or two in the hospital before going home, and after the surgical wound heals 2-3 weeks later, patients undergo up to six weeks of daily external beam radiation therapy to eliminate residual tumor cells.
EBRT radiation must pass through much of the cranium to target the site of residual tumor cells, leaving cranial tissue compromised and often unable to withstand additional external radiation. If the tumor recurs, surgery isn’t recommended if follow-up radiation isn’t possible.
Out of desperation to treat these patients, the founders of GT Medical Technologies, Inc. decided to apply radiation therapy at the time of surgery by placing GammaTile devices inside the cavity created by tumor removal. This Surgically Targeted Radiation Therapy (STaRT) is deployed in the last five minutes of the surgical procedure and works immediately, rather than waiting for the 2-3-week healing period before EBRT. During the EBRT waiting period, residual tumor cells have the chance to replicate.
Benefits of GammaTile Therapy
A key benefit of STaRT is the elimination of up to 30 additional hospital or clinic visits for follow-up care, in addition to the absence of some common side effects. GammaTile doesn’t require someone to shuttle them to and from the clinic, hair loss is uncommon and the procedure is relatively painless. In this era of COVID-19, reducing exposure to disease for these patients is more important now than ever before.
In a study of 108 patients who underwent GammaTile Therapy at the BNI between 2013 and 2018, this technology was shown to either prevent tumor recurrence or significantly delay the time in which tumors recurred. All major types of brain tumors were treated, including glioblastomas, metastases and meningiomas. GT Medical was formally established in October of 2017, received FDA clearance for recurrent brain tumors in July of 2018, and expanded that clearance to include newly-diagnosed brain tumors in January of 2020.
The company now has 30 adopting hospitals in the United States and four in Arizona, including Banner Phoenix, Banner Tucson, Honor Health Scottsdale Osborn Clinic and the Mayo Clinic Phoenix. While GT Medical continues to grow commercially, major investments are being made to conduct additional clinical studies and gain international regulatory clearances. At the same time, GT Medical is exploring applications of GammaTile Therapy for tumors that occur outside the brain, including spine, head, neck and more.
Fortunately, GT Medical has received a great deal of local support to help further GammaTile treatment. An Arizona Commerce Authority Innovation Award, as well as a Flinn Foundation Award, provided early non-dilutive financing for the company. Additionally, three local angel investing groups, AZ Technology Investors, Desert Angels and Canyon Angels, participated in each round of funding thus far. Bluestone Ventures out of Tucson was an institutional investor in the Series A and Series B rounds of financing, and AZ Bio’s recognition of GT Medical as a “Fast Lane Award Winner” in 2019 is another example of the outstanding local support for our company.
Not only has GammaTile Therapy proven to be clinically effective, it’s also providing patients with an improved quality of life. GT would like to thank everyone in the Arizona start-up ecosystem for supporting us in our fight to provide better treatment to patients with brain tumors. As cancer treatment continues to evolve, GammaTile Therapy is an innovation that every patient facing the diagnosis of a brain tumor deserves to know about.
Matt Likens is CEO of GT Medical Technologies.