By Tom Still
MADISON – It seems I can’t go more than a few weeks without hearing about someone – a friend, a relative, a business acquaintance – who has been diagnosed with cancer. That’s the bad news. The good news is that, in general, their chances of survival are getting better by the day.
Wisconsin bioscience companies are a part of this revolution. Here are a few examples:
- TomoTherapy in Madison is one of a handful of companies worldwide that makes specialized radiation machines for treating cancer. TomoTherapy’s Hi-Art system pinpoints tumors, firing narrow but concentrated beams of radiation at the cancer. Radiation levels drop off significantly beyond the tumor site, thus lowering the risk of harming healthy tissue.
- PointOne Systems LLC in Wauwatosa makes clinical genetic information products that can accelerate physician application of knowledge in genomics, gene expression, proteomics and other emerging areas. Chronic diseases, such as cancer, are the ultimate targets of this type of “molecular medicine.”
- GenTel BioSurfaces Inc. in Madison makes microarrays, or “biochips,” that contain hundreds to thousands of test sites in an area the size of a dime. The biochips read blood to identify specific proteins involved with cancers and other diseases. This allows laboratory specialists to detect the patterns of the proteins earlier for more effective diagnosis and treatment.
- Cellectar, a Madison company, is researching a compound called NM404 that has been shown to identify and shrink a variety of malignant tumors in mice.
- Quintessence Biosciences in Madison has developed a human protein that has been genetically modified so it is toxic to cancer cells.
- Third Wave Technologies in Madison won FDA approval last summer for a diagnostic assay that will be used to identify patients with increased risk of adverse reaction to Camptosar, a chemotherapy drug.
- Platypus Technologies of Fitchburg won a National Cancer Institute grant to develop a liquid crystal-based technology for rapid quantification of protein activity, which is useful in cancer research.
- GE Medical Systems in Waukesha signed a clinical trial agreement with the cancer imaging program of the National Cancer Institute to test a chemotherapeutic agent that can monitor proliferation of cancer cells.
- NovaScan in Milwaukee, co-winner of the 2004 Governor’s Business Plan Contest, has developed a technology that can help distinguish benign from malignant tumors by measuring electrical activity.