Cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide, responsible for more than 10 million mortalities in 2020, according to Cancer Research UK. While the number of cancer diagnoses continues to rise each year, evidence shows that between one-third to half of all cancers can be prevented by avoiding risk factors and adopting a range of evidence-based preventative measures.
California-based biotech startup Filtricine is driven by its mission of fighting cancer via a range of proprietary nutritional replacement meals. Founded by a group of Stanford university researchers, the company has developed a novel scientific approach called Targeted Nutrients Deprivation (TND), which starves cancer cells of essential nutrients they require, while nourishing the body and contributing to a healthy overall diet.
A science-backed approach to minimising cancer through diet
Tality, the startup’s flagship product, is a type of medical food that was developed based on extensive evidence-based research in cell metabolism and nutritional science that found that cancer cells feed on certain nutrients that normal cells in the body do not require.
“We're a company that creates food that lacks the nutrients that cancer cells require. If you feed a person our food for most of their diet, the levels of the nutrients that the cancer cells require will go down and our food will slow the growth, or sometimes reverse the growth, of cancer cells,” Dr John Chant, CEO of Filtricine, told Vitafoods Insights.
Cancer cells require several non-essential amino acids (NEAAs) for their survival, which are commonly found in the foods humans consume. Offering a breakthrough drug-free approach to cancer treatment and prevention, Filtricine’s range of nutritionally complete foods lack the NEAAs cancer cells thrive on, while delivering the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals needed to ensure comprehensive and balanced nutrition. Examples of these NEAAs include Arg, Cys, Gln, and Tyr.
A novel approach to cancer treatment, TND is effective in killing cancer cells while maintaining the healthy growth of non-cancerous cells, as has been proven in various laboratory and clinical trials conducted with Filtricine.
“We're happy to say that in four years, we've gone through several laboratory and clinical trials and have shown that the food works in human patients with cancer, which is really a breakthrough,” said Chant.
A breakthrough alternative to drug-based cancer treatment and prevention
The TND diet administered by the Tality meal plan can be used in combination with the patient’s normal standard of care or administered alone, and can provide benefits for patients in as little as four weeks, early results show.
Clinical and animal-based trials found that the TND diet alone deprived of targeted NEAAs is safe and effective in treating a wide range of cancers. The company has already tested its approach on men with prostate cancer and is looking to target patients with certain cases of leukaemia next, Chant explained.
“We have the data and we're happy to share it with anyone,” he said.
“We think the food will work broadly in many cancer types and we're working to test that now.”
As well as cancer treatment, the startup is also hopeful that its products will be able to be used to prevent the growth of precancerous lesions in future, although further research is required.
“We don't have proof for prevention yet, but the food has no side effect and is generally very healthy, so I [am confident that] there will be a market for this cause in the future,” Chant said.
Regulation ‘a very small hurdle’
Filtricine has collaborated with a range of nutritionists and chefs to formulate over 20 food flavours and formats, including shakes, nutritional bars, and soups, all of which are gluten-, dairy-, and lactose-free. The products contain only generally recognised as safe (GRAS)-certified ingredients and do not require any regulatory approval where current conditions apply, Chant explained.
Classed as a medical food, Filtricine’s TND diet is required to be administered and monitored to treat conditions with a metabolic basis under the care of a physician or medical professional.
“All the patients we've interacted with are very positive about the food, and [to date], no doctor has ever said no,” Chant said.
Going to market
The company is aiming to launch its product range in 2024 and is currently in conversation with various potential food companies to partner and commercialise with.
“We've always been dedicated to trying to do something big and important to help people. We think we've been fortunate to have achieved this and we now want to go to market,” Chant said.
Having previously been funded by several venture capitalists, Filtricine is currently in the process of raising a series A funding round, in conjunction with exploring commercial partnerships.
“We want to rely on the corporate partnerships for inside services. They will probably invest but they will also provide their sales network, which has a tremendous value,” Chant said.