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Plerion Medical: POET Catheter

Team Members:
  • Mackenzie Hall
  • Izabella Samuel
  • Kai Zhang
  • Samuel Weinreb
  • Mariana Bendavit Kleinzweig
  • Daniel Laheru
  • Robert Liddell
  • Richard Burkhart
  • Clifford Weiss
  • Youseph Yazdi
  • Bruce Forsyth


Pancreatic cancer (PC) is the 11th most common cancer in the United States, with an estimated 58,000 new diagnoses a year. This type of cancer has a dismal 5-year survival rate of only about 8%, making it the 3rd leading cause of cancer death and accounting for nearly $1.5 billion dollars a year in healthcare spending for the US. These patients live an average of 3.5 months after their diagnosis if the cancer goes untreated and 8 months if they are able to access good treatment. This meager increase in average survival is a result of the fact that the cancer is often diagnosed at a very late stage and treatment regimens are often ineffective. Treatment for PC includes chemotherapy and/or radiation, but the only potentially curative treatment is surgical resection of the primary tumor. Surgical resectability is based on several factors including the location of the tumor, vascular involvement, and the presence of metastases; based on these factors a tumor may be deemed resectable (20% of patients), metastatic unresectable (50% of patients), or locally advanced (30% of patients). Patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer (LAPC) are not eligible for surgery due to vascular involvement of pancreatic tumors, and thus, these patients must rely on chemotherapy to downstage their disease. However, both of the first line chemotherapeutics for PC, gemcitabine and FOLFIRINOX, have low efficacies.

The Plerion One Electrochemotherapy (POET) Catheter is an intravascular catheter designed to enhance the efficacies of these pancreatic cancer chemotherapeutics in the parts of the tumor invading and surrounding an artery. Through the process of reversible electroporation of cell membranes, our device selectively increases the susceptibility of cancer cells to systemic chemotherapy, resulting in tumor regression from a major blood vessel and subsequent downstaging. For patients with locally advanced pancreatic cancer, the POET catheter will increase the chances of receiving potentially curative surgery by reducing tumor involvement with important vessels. Unlike systemic chemotherapy alone, our solution will target perivascular tumor components while limiting unwanted side effects. This intervention, delivered by interventional radiologists, will increase the number of LAPC patients who can receive potentially curative surgery and could increase average survival by around 2 years.

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