Proteus Digital Health, a smart-pill manufacturer in Silicon Valley, recently announced the launch of an oral chemotherapy pill containing sensors that help oncologists track cancer treatment. This unique pill is being offered through a collaboration with the University of Minnesota health system and Fairview Health Services, a nonprofit encompassing Minnesota clinics.
Seven patients with stage 3 or 4 colorectal cancer have been provided the digital pill treatment in Minnesota since September. The concept behind the technology is to allow physicians to track when their patients take chemotherapy drugs, giving them insight to medication adherence and data for treatment guidance.
After being swallowed, the pill’s sensor becomes activated when in the stomach and signals a patch the patient wears on their body. This transmitted data includes quantity ingested, time of consumption, and type of medication. Once sent, this information is published to an online portal that the patient and support team can access as well.
“Proteus’ digital medicine technology provides a more direct connection to the patient,” said Edward Greeno, director of the University of Minnesota Health oncology service line. “It creates a way for us to achieve a lot of things that happen when a patient is in the clinic for infusions without them coming in person,” Greeno said in a statement. “Also, we can gain insights about the patient that we can’t learn from an office visit, like how the patient is doing with their treatment regimen while at home, on a daily basis.”
Proteus developed this smart-pill in the wake of the FDA’s first approval of a digital pill, Abilify MyCite, in late 2017. This pill was created to aid patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and required FDA approval because the sensor is embedded with the pill’s medication. Proteus’s treatment, on the other hand, did not require such approval because of the loose manner in which the sensor is embedded. The Proteus smart-pill program is the first in which a digital pill is used in cancer therapy.
This digital cancer therapeutic combines capecitabine, sold under the name Xeloda, and Proteus’s sensor. The two are contained in one capsule, but Proteus initially places the sensor in a placebo pill to simplify handling. Once this placebo pill is shipped to the specialty pharmacy, a pharmacist puts the active capecitabine and the sensor from the placebo pill into one capsule. Proteus achieved FDA approval for their product in 2012.
Capecitabine was chosen to be the treatment used with this sensor being that it is a commonly prescribed therapy for several cancers, but also because it is particularly challenging for patients to adhere to. The patient must ingest six to eight pills daily, with two weeks on and one off to complete one of the eight treatment cycles. The goal is for the sensor to allow health care professionals to see how strictly their patient sticks to the regimen. Doctors can give their patients advice when they see them straying from the course.
“Currently, providers make decisions about oral chemotherapy based on patients’ best knowledge of their medication taking,” said Proteus CEO and co-founder Andrew Thompson. “For the first time, digital oncology medicines give providers and caregivers new insights and ability to engage with more specific information in the remote care of colorectal cancer patients. Based on our data around the use of digital medicines in other treatment areas, we believe this will enable oncology patients to stay on their therapy longer, avoid hospital admissions, and have better response to therapy overall.”
— MobiHealthNews (@MobiHealthNews) January 17, 2019