LiteCure: Using Lasers to Treat Cancer; Alternative to Opiates
In the span of a week earlier this year, Brian Pryor — CEO of Newark-based LiteCure — attended a veterinary conference in Las Vegas to talk about treating cancer with lasers, then flew to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, where he gave a 30-minute talk on how teams can best use lasers to treat injured players. Pryor’s business, founded in 2006 and now home to about 100 employees, is divided into a medical division and a veterinary division, and both units are thriving.
“They’re both growing. Medical’s growing a little faster,” says Pryor, noting that the medical division was slower getting off the ground because insurance does not typically cover laser therapies. But, with a recent shift in that market, the division is growing. “With physical therapy,” Pryor explains, “cash pay is becoming very popular, so we’re really riding that growth in the medical side.”
“On the veterinarian side,” Pryor notes, “we’ve almost saturated the market for veterinarian lasers in the U.S. — it’s a household name, when you go into a vet’s office.” LiteCure’s most recent innovation sounds like health care from the future. “We just launched a product,” Pryor says, “where we’re using lasers to excite gold nanoparticles to kill cancer.”
Right now, the procedure is being used around the country to cure dogs of cancer. Traditional surgery is not a great option for mass cell tumors located, for example, on a dog’s legs or face — the surgery can result in amputation or leave the animal with issues breathing or eating. Under LiteCure’s new technique — called Companion Nanotherapy — the animal is given an intravenous infusion of gold nanoparticles the day before the procedure. Then, the day of the procedure, the dog visits the vet. “They put a laser probe on the surface of the tumor — it’s about a 10-minute treatment — and it kills the tumor, and the tumor basically falls off the next day,” Pryor says. The nanoparticles attach themselves only to the tumor, and the laser heats just those particles, killing the tumor. The technology is now in clinical trials with human subjects, with that effort being led by a Houston firm called Nanospectra; LiteCure provided the lasers for the trial.
“It’s next-gen health,” Pryor says.
Pryor studied math and chemistry in college, and got his PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Pennsylvania. While there, his laboratory centered on laser research. Fast-pulse lasers were not commercially available at the time, so Pryor built them. After college, he worked in custom laser design; his first medical lasers were for hair removal. When Pryor was ready to start his own company, he partnered with Sean Wang, CEO of Newark-based B&W Tek. “It was kind of good timing,” Pryor says. “I wanted to do something, and he wanted to make lasers for the end-user,
so that’s how we collaborated and started LiteCure.”
LiteCure started in Newark because of the connection with Wang. It’s remained there because “the location is fantastic,” Pryor notes. “I love the location, basically being able to get to Washington or New York in a couple of hours with Baltimore and Philly in between — it’s very convenient for us.”
LiteCure’s physical therapy technology — which is in widespread use throughout college and professional sports — is called photobiomodulation. Essentially, the therapy involves using lasers to target injured tissue and reduce inflammation. Pryor notes that, as a pain treatment, photobiomodulation is gaining traction as an alternative to drugs. “With the opiate crisis,” he says, “I think people are starting to open up to more non-pharmaceutical options.”