MRI Interventions (MRIC) has been gaining traction with investors and medical professionals through the first part of 2012 with the advancement of the ClearPoint and ClearTrace MRI-enhancing technology that has thus far enabled surgeons - by providing real-time imagery during complicated procedures - to conduct less-invasive and more precise operations on the brain and heart, respectively. The technology has proven successful enough in development that Boston Scientific Corporation (BSX) has already invested an up-front payment of $13 million in a partnership with MRIC while Siemens AG (SI) and Brainlab AG have also joined on to advance the technology.
Tuesday morning brought another key development to light when MRIC and Brainlab jointly announced that ClearPoint "is being used in a groundbreaking clinical trial for the treatment of pediatric brain cancer." In conjunction with this announcement, it was revealed that the first procedure had already taken place and the early results were encouraging. A team of professionals gathered at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and "used the ClearPoint System in the delivery of a cancer-fighting agent into the tumor of a pediatric patient while viewing three-dimensional MRI images of the delivery in real-time throughout the procedure."
This is no small milestone for the ClearPoint technology. Medical professionals generally need to be overwhelmingly convinced of a product or drug's safety and efficacy before putting it to use in the pediatric arena. As discussed earlier in the year, the early successes of ClearPoint have gone a long way to gaining the confidence of the medical community.
It's also worth noting the potential of the ClearPoint technology to be put to more widespread use in various clinical trials where treatments need to be directed towards specific points in a patient's brain. Tocagen announced earlier in the year that it, too, would utilize the technology in a clinical trial for brain cancer, and there are numerous companies out there conducting similar trials that could also see the benefit of utilizing ClearPoint.
As described in Tuesday's press release, ClearPoint enabled doctors to apply an anti-cancer agent directly into a child's brain stem. Previously, it has been suspected that treatments have not been achieving their full potential because full doses were not being administered due to the complications associated with conducting such a difficult procedure. ClearPoint is designed to alleviate such concerns and thus far the results have been encouraging.
Dr. Mark Souweidane, who led the team that conducted the noted pediatric procedure noted that, "This trial is about renewed hope. It's a departure from the standard therapy and has the potential to create a whole new paradigm in brain tumor treatment. Delivering drugs intravenously hasn't worked because of the blood-brain barrier – to get even a small amount of medicine to the tumor we need high doses of chemotherapy, which is toxic to the rest of the body. But placing the agent outside of the blood vessels, directly into the tumor, greatly reduces that toxicity while maximizing the attack on the tumor itself."
MRI Interventions conducted a stock offering last month to raise funds for the development of its technologies. Although this company is still in the early stages of growth, which means additional financing deals may bee needed over the long run, a methodical move into a highly lucrative market is gaining steam and as additional demonstrations of success are realized, the room for growth expands. Additionally, the announcement of the pediatric procedure serves as another round of validation for the technology and - as evidenced by the BSX and SI partnerships, continued success could attract larger partners in the medical device community.
One to keep an eye on, especially since shares have recently retreated in price.
Disclosure: No position.
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