“Tumor paint” for real-time imaging during surgery attracts $8.5M, inches toward the clinic

Dr. James Olson, Blaze Bioscience co-founder

Dr. James Olson, Blaze Bioscience co-founder

When surgeons are removing a tumor, it’s critical that they remove the tumor in its entirety without taking too much of the surrounding healthy tissue along with it. While MRIs and CT scans help in that endeavor, numerous researchers and companies have observed a need for better imaging technologies to help surgeons differentiate healthy tissue from cancerous tissue in real time.

One of those companies, Seattle-based Blaze Bioscience, has a technology it says can illuminate cancer cells during surgery, to let surgeons see them in higher-resolution and perform a more precise removal of the tumor. Investors apparently see potential in the technology, too, as they’ve just boosted the company’s Series A round to $8.5 million, adding $3.5 million since the first closing of the round in June.

Those funds came from physicians, biotech executives and other individual investors, and will carry Blaze’s first candidate, BLZ-100, into clinical development for use in various types of solid tumors.


Developed by Dr. James Olson and a team from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Children’s Hospital Research Institute, the technology was appropriately given the name Tumor Paint. It comprises a fluorescent beacon and a targeting peptide that latches onto cancer cells’ receptors. It’s administered by injection, causing those cells to light up with the use of a near-infrared camera during surgery.

The expected benefits of real-time tumor imaging have lured several other companies to this market as well. A startup called Spectropath, for example, is developing a handheld device and radiopharmaceutical agent for this same purpose. Avelas Biosciences also has a fluorescent peptide in development called Cancer Illuminator.

Blaze, founded in 2010, says BLS-100 is entering toxicology studies, and a Phase 1 trial to evaluate safety and dosing could begin as early as this year.

[Photo from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center]

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