New diagnostic technology known as “molecular imaging” and a new treatment called “molecular targeted radiation therapy” is expected to “revolutionize treatment of cancer,” according to Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids).
Anthony Chang, founder and CEO of BAMF Health in Grand Rapids, explained the procedure to the House Health Policy Committee recently by showing them a scan of a prostate cancer patient’s body riddled with tumors.
“When we see a patient like this with a hundred tumors in their body, usually this is a death sentence,” Chang said. “We know this type of patient. The only option is chemotherapy with a very strong side effect and eventually they will almost always, almost guaranteed, pass to drug resistance and go to hospice care and die.
“But this new technology called molecular targeted radiation therapy allows us to efficiently deliver a lethal radiation dose to every single tumor we find in the patient’s body without causing any side effect or major side effect. So we can achieve complete remission over here,” he said.
Already under construction is the Doug Meijer Medical Innovation Building in Grand Rapids where BAMF will use the new techniques to treat cancer patients.
It is scheduled to open in February 2022, if it can get a certificate of need (CON) from the state for a full body positron emission tomography (PET) scanner in time.
Brinks explained that BAMF’s application for a CON was delayed by about nine months because of the COVID pandemic, so now the earliest the CON Commission could issue that certificate would be November.
“With the current lag time of 10 months to purchase, build, deliver and set up these machines, their planned opening in February of 2022 is not possible with this delay,” Brinks said.
Her SB 0440 would solve the problem by creating a pilot program within the CON process, running concurrently with the application already filed. BAMF would still need to complete the process it has already started, but the pilot program will allow it to move forward earlier and keep to its original timeline, Brinks explained.
“I believe that the CON Commission plays a powerful role in patient safety and in keeping health care costs down. The intent of this bill is in no way to chip away at the commission’s ability to do its job,” Brinks said.
House Health Policy voted 16-0 with three passes to report SB 0440 . The bill was expected to have been taken up on the House floor.
In its quest to get SB 0440 approved, BAMF Health is being represented by former House Speaker Tom Leonard, now with the Plunkett Cooney law firm.
Chang said he intends to build 10 clinics strategically located across the country to provide the new treatment to patients.
“With this facility starting from Michigan, not only are we going to create 200 or more jobs in west Michigan, but it will make Michigan a hub and a destination of this cutting edge technology,” Chang told the committee. “We’re building a brand new technology industry over here and we’ll attract doctors to Grand Rapids to train and patients to Michigan to receive this kind of treatment. And we are going to attract a lot of companies to Michigan to boost this whole industry.”
Chang assured the committee the technology “is not a fantasy,” but he said the only other clinic using the technology now is located in Germany.
A cancer scientist, Chang said he has dedicated the past 15 to 20 years of his life to bring this technology to patients.
“The hardest thing for me is not a patient dying if there is nothing we can do. The hardest thing for me is patients are dying every day, I know there is something we can do,” he said.
Chang explained the process involves the use of radioactive drugs, also known as tracers.
“This drug is designed to look for a specific disease, in this case prostate cancer and prostate cancer only,” Chang said. “So we inject this radioactive drug into the patient, it will circulate over the body of the patient. Once it finds the prostate cancer, it will bind to it and start sending out a signal. At this moment, we put the patient under a PET scanner to locate where the tumors are and know how many tumors are there and also know what type of cancer. It is done without a need for invasive biopsy procedures.”
Once the diagnostic isotope identifies the tumors, a therapeutic isotope is injected which releases a large amount of radiation where the tumors are but with a very short range, as small as two millimeters in size.
“That is how we can burn tumors out on-site without hurting surrounding tissues, meaning without causing severe side effects. That is how we use this new technology to tackle the cancer more efficiently than any existing method,” Chang said.
BAMF is starting with prostate cancer. Chang said there are 3 million prostate cancer patients in the U.S. and that prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer for men.
But using the same concept, BAMF will bring out additional drugs to be used to treat breast cancer, colon cancer, brain cancer, pancreatic cancer and other cancers, “saving a lot of patients’ lives and bringing them back to their normal life,” Chang said.
The technique also works on blood-borne cancers, he said.
The same diagnostic method may be used for early detection of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases as well as mental health disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and depression. It may also be used to diagnose cardiac disease, Chang said.
He explained the Grand Rapids clinic will include facilities needed to manufacture the radioactive drugs on-site because they decay rapidly.
The half-life for these radioactive drugs ranges from 12 hours to two minutes. A drug with a half-life of 12 hours could be shipped to a clinic out of state, Chang said, but for a drug with a half-life of two minutes, the patient has to be in BAMF’s clinic when the drug is manufactured.
That is also the reason a PET scanner has to be located in the clinic, he said. He explained the PET scanner for which they need the CON will be one that is 40 times more sensitive than other PET scanners on the market. That means the time needed for a full-body scan will be shortened from 40 minutes to one minute, Chang said.
Chad Bassett, COO of BAMF Health, said he expects the Grand Rapids clinic will be able to treat 8,000 patients per year when it is running at full capacity.
Construction hasn’t started on the other clinics yet but the plan is for them to have a similar capacity, Chang said. Later clinics may be larger as they learn more about how to administer the therapy and because “the need is so great,” Chang said.
Brinks said she recognizes that some lawmakers disagree with the need for the state’s CON process.
“Regardless of the delicate political terrain that we have had to walk through to achieve this resolution, this health care approach will revolutionize treatment for cancer starting immediately with potential for promising interventions for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, mental health disorders and more,” Brinks said. “I felt I had to do all in my power to help them get over this finish line, not just for Grand Rapidians but for all Michiganders and many people far beyond our borders.”
XXX House Gives Thumbs Up To Cancer Clinic CON Bill
BAMF Health in Grand Rapids is one step closer to getting the certificate of need (CON) it needs for equipment to open a clinic that will “revolutionize” cancer treatment as a result of House action June 10.
The House voted 82-27 on SB 0440, which will create a new program within the CON process so BAMF can get its certificate for a positron emission tomography (PET) scanner sooner.
The clinic, already under construction, will use radioactive drugs to target tumors without damaging surrounding tissues or causing side effects, according to BAMF CEO Anthony Chang.
BAMF has applied for a CON, but because of delays caused by COVID-19, isn’t likely to receive it until November. That’s not enough time to order, build and set up the scanner before the clinic’s scheduled opening in February 2022, according to SB 0440 sponsor Sen. Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids).
Her bill would allow BAMF to get the certificate sooner.
Among those voting no was Rep. Andrea Schroeder (R-Independence Twp.), herself a cancer survivor.
She said she’s never been a fan of the CON process, but since BAMF has already applied and is halfway through the process, she’d prefer to let the process play out.
Additionally, Schroeder said, she received information today that the CON commission is expected to take up the issue next week and BAMF could get final approval as early as September.
Lynn Sutfin, spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), explained that the commission sets the standards and that DHHS then reviews and makes determinations on CON applications.
On June 17, the CON commission will review standards for PET scanners and if the commission approves the proposed standards, BAMF can apply for CON approval, Sutfin said.
The process is that when the commission makes a proposed decision, a public hearing is held and the governor and Legislature have 45 days to review it, she explained.
If the CON Commission took action in its June meeting and held a public hearing in July or August, the commission could take final action in September.
After that, the standards would be submitted to the Legislature and governor for 45 days. So the commission could make a final decision in September meeting and the standards could go into effect after 45 days, which would be in November, Sutfin said.
This story courtesy of MIRS, a Lansing-based news and information service.