Over 500,000 people worldwide get diagnosed with head and neck cancers every year. The treatment continues to pose significant challenges and tends to cost way more than what most patients can afford to pay.
By drawing on their experience in science and business, the founders of a Dutch startup have set out on a mission to free the world of head and neck cancers by using thermotherapy.
Old concept, new technology
Sensius’ thermotherapy builds on the concept of hyperthermia, or the heating of a tumor in order to make it better prepared to fight cancer. Several studies show that adding thermotherapy to conventional treatment methods (surgery, radiotherapy, or chemotherapy) has a significant benefit for patients.
‘The old concept didn’t work because it was too difficult for physicians to use it,’ says Paul van den Biggelaar, co-founder and CEO of Sensius. Based on the Erasmus Medical Center’s HyperCollar3D, Sensius’ solution comes with full software support, making treatment reliable and reproducible. If administered properly, the treatment allows for a better targeting of the tumor while protecting sensitive nearby organs.
In search of a lead investor
Four years after its launch, Sensius has a detailed design of its product and endorsement from key opinion leaders ready to start working with it once it becomes commercially available.
‘We are just a few seconds away from making a huge difference in cancer treatment and those seconds are really the time to close an investors deal,’ van den Biggelaar explains. ‘The only thing that stops us now is having a lead investor because there are already two co-investors lined up. With the funding it will take us only two years to build the product and make it ready for the market to start treating patients.’
Beyond conventional wisdom
To this date, over 70 patients have been treated with Sensius’ clinical prototypes. Erasmus MC, the only clinic in the world that offers deep thermotherapy for treatment of tumors in the head and neck area using HyperCollar3D, already describes the device as their standard treatment of recurrent cancer, van den Biggelaar says.
He gives as an example the story of the first patient treated with Sensius’ second prototype. After experiencing the limitations of traditional treatment methods, the young person and his parents started exploring alternative options. First, they looked at Dutch clinics, but didn’t find a solution. They then turned to Germany. The last clinic they visited sent them back to the Netherlands, to a clinic in Rotterdam that offered monotherapy using HyperCollar3D. The treatment proved effective, and the patient gave a poster to the physicians saying, ‘Don’t tell me the sky is the limit if there are footsteps on the moon.’