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Biologically targeted treatment

Boneca is the world’s only private health care company administering Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT). The results of the company’s clinical research programme show that BNCT offers clear benefits for patients suffering recurring head and neck cancer following full-dose conventional radiation therapy.
Boneca Corporation

Boron Neutron Capture Therapy is a biologically targeted form of radiation therapy based on producing radiation inside tumour cells. High therapeutic doses can be given in a single treatment session, which typically consists of two consecutive irradiation periods of around 20 minutes. This compares very favourably to conventional therapy, in which it can be necessary to irradiate patients up to 30 times. BNCT can also be used with patients who can no longer be treated using conventional radiation therapy.

Letting the boron do its job

A special carrier substance – boron phenylalanine (BPA) – is used to carry boron into the cancer cells. BPA is infused into a peripheral vein, allowing the boron to accumulate in the cancer tissue.

The tumour containing the boron is subsequently irradiated with neutrons obtained from a research nuclear reactor. The boron atoms react with these neutrons and split into two high-energy particles that can destroy cancer cells. Advanced methods developed by Boneca maximise the radiation dose to the tumour tissue and minimise the amount of harmful radiation given to healthy tissue.

Good results and exciting prospects

BNCT is still an experimental form of treatment, and Boneca’s current approach is based on general BCNT research that has been carried out in Finland and joint development work done by the company and its partners: the Department of Oncology and other departments at the Helsinki University Central Hospital and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Operational procedures are fully documented and clinically audited.

The company’s research programme is concentrating on using BNCT to treat recurrent head and neck cancer and malignant brain tumours ​ (glioblastoma and anaplastic astrocytoma).

A Phase I/II study on 12 patients in 2007 confirmed that the majority of head and neck cancer in those suffering local recurrences after surgery and full-dose conventional radiation therapy responded very well to BNCT treatment. Ten patients had substantial tumour shrinkage following BNCT, and the tumour was eliminated completely in seven cases. The adverse effects of the treatment were moderate and resembled those of conventional radiation therapy. Boneca has expanded the study to 30 patients, and the follow-up phase is now under way.

The focus of Boneca’s clinical R&D is now on building up scientific evidence for current protocols, after which the goal is to start providing BNCT treatment as a primary therapy for selected malignant tumours.

Preparing a patient for neutron irradiation. BNCT enables a high dosage of radiation to be given to tumours, while minimising its impact on adjacent healthy tissue.
> Markku Pohjola
(Published in HighTech Finland 2009)