FDA Approves Tumor Paint Testing on Kids

Adrian Rubin

a soft-tissue sarcoma from a dog after consuming Tumor Paint BLZ-100. Fluorescence provided by Tumor Paint: cancerous cells highlighted in red. (Blaze Bioscience Inc.)

Many challenges face our global society today, from food insecurity to inaccessible or unaffordable medical care to inadequate educational opportunities to climate – related disaster. Unfortunately the list continues to an exponential degree, which at times can be disheartening for those looking to make a positive difference in the world. Instead of getting dejected about the overwhelming need in the world, it is up to the individual to double down and focus his or her efforts where they can. And on the bright side, even with so many challenges affecting populations all over the world, there are still many small victories worth celebrating. For those interested in bettering the quality and duration of life for sick kids, this month brought promising news for children and young adults possibly facing brain cancer.

BLZ-100 : Tumor Paint

Officials from the FDA recently approved expanding the patients in a clinical trial of the drug – BLZ-100 by Blaze Bioscience to include those that range in age from infants to young adults.The drug utilizes a dye that comes from the venom of a scorpion and highlights cancerous cells so that surgeons can both identify and remove these deadly brain tumors.Researchers at Fred Hutch, Seattle Children’s and the University of Washington both discovered and developed the molecule BLZ-q00. The molecule is made up of a protein from the venom of the deathstalker scorpion (this is responsible for penetrating the tumor cells) and a dye that illuminates when placed under infrared light. The scorpion venom is currently produced chemically, so no naturally- ocurring venom is involved. Prior to the FDA’s approval of expanding the potential trial patient population, the tests were restricted to adults.

Potential for Revolution

According to principal investigator for the trial, DR. Sarah Leary, “…it does have the potential to be revolutionary.” The use of this drug is a result of trying to solve the storied problem of removing malignant cells, while leaving healthy cells alone when attempting to remove brain tumors.Gateway for Cancer Research funded the phase I clinical trial of BLZ-100 with a grant for $800,000. Phase I focuses on the safety, dosage and records the side effects of the drug in a relatively small number of patients. Testing for safety of the drug has gone smoothly in adults, so the major focus for the researchers involves finding the right dosage and ensuring that the medical team operating on the patients has the right kind of device to get the light where it’s needed.

Next Steps with Testing

It’s estimated that The Seattle Children’s trial will continue to run for two years. And if all goes well, hopefully “Tumor Paint” (as it’s called) will be available more broadly within the next three to five years- according to Heather Franklin, president and chief executive of Blaze Bioscience. Regardless of what results from the trials, the fact that this is even within the realm of possibility is a huge boon for those concerned with the health and welfare of ill children.