Cancer therapeutics project helps children get exact chemotherapy dose they need

Innovate UK’s Cancer Therapeutics programme has funded a project to support the delivery of a software platform that analyses children’s reactions to chemotherapy in real time. By doing this, healthcare professionals will be equipped with the evidence needed to prescribe safer and more effective chemotherapy doses that are individually tailored to the patient, improving their long-term quality of life.

Posted on: 14/12/2023

Child in hospital bed hooked up to a drip

Life-changing treatments

The Cancer Therapeutics programme focuses on developing life-changing cancer treatments, including immunotherapies and vaccines. It also supports projects addressing medical needs for treating childhood and young persons’ cancers.

The Dosologic project is being led by Vesynta, a diagnostic enabled precision medicine company. The London-based start-up is supported by Newcastle University and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Children and Young People (CYP) Med-Tech Co-operative, marking an exciting collaboration between UK child health leaders. Vesynta’s engineering and commercial attributes, Newcastle University’s years of childhood cancer pharmacology stewardship and the CYP MedTech’s translational network shall ensure a usable and scientifically robust technology that is rapidly adopted into NHS practice, for chemotherapy dose optimisation.  

Patient-personalised chemotherapy

Around 40,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year globally. Choosing the right chemotherapy dose for each individual childhood cancer patient is a challenge. Many factors, such as fat distribution and organ function affect how drugs are metabolised and cleared from our bodies. These differences are exaggerated in children due to their rapidly developing anatomy and can vary markedly between patients. 

In practice, this means that two people given the same dose may have very different levels of a drug in their blood, or drug exposure, for different lengths of time. When using chemotherapy to treat cancer, low drug exposure can lead to the cancer continuing to grow. If drug exposure is too high, the patient may suffer from toxic side effects that often present late into adulthood. 

Until now, a patient’s weight or surface area is used to determine their chemotherapy dose. This does not dynamically capture the entire clinical complexity of an individual patient. Dosing is particularly challenging for certain groups of patients, such as infants and younger children who have been traditionally underrepresented in dose-informing clinical trials. We hope the Dosologic software platform will give clinicians access to a key pillar of clinical evidence that supports patient-personalised chemotherapy dose adjustments towards a ‘target exposure’ for each drug. By measuring drug concentrations from blood samples taken over time, we can build mathematical models that predict and recommend the dose needed to achieve the optimum drug exposure in a particular patient. 

Each dose adjustment requires pharmacology expertise and processing of clinical data. However, integrating Dosologic’s intelligent software with Vesynta’s complementary drug monitoring device, makes this level of personalisation becoming standard of care a reality. The Dosologic platform will use drug concentration data to build a unique “pharmacokinetic” model for each patient. A user-friendly bedside interface will support clinicians to simulate prescribing scenarios for their patient, leading to the optimal dose recommendation every time, making personalised childhood cancer treatment more safe, effective and precise. The Cancer Therapeutics funding has made this project possible. It is a very important part of realising the potential of Dosologic.

– Dr Jugal Suthar, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Vesynta

Vesynta’s project represents a collaborative partnership between private, academic and clinical organisations to fast-track healthcare innovation and compete on a global stage. This is the essence of Innovate UK’s business support. Dosologic’s specific goal of developing a digital platform to personalise dose selection for childhood cancer patients aligns with the Cancer Therapeutics programme’s aim to support better tailored, more effective, safer treatments as well as Innovate UK’s wider objective to improve health and wellbeing. The focus on childhood cancers and child health more broadly is an important, yet previously underfunded, research area.

– Dr Karen Spink, Head of Medicines at Innovate UK

Improving quality of life

If successful, the Dosologic platform will mean a large proportion of children with cancer will receive chemotherapy dosing that will support improved survival rates and a better long-term quality of life physically and mentally, benefitting their families, the UK economy and society as a whole. 

You can find out more about the Dosologic project here.

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