Current estimates show that 226,000 people would be diagnosed in 2012 with lung and bronchial carcinoma in the U.S. according to the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program of the National Cancer Institute. About 160,000 of them are expected to die from this disease or its complications, such as obstructed airways. This disease impacts male and female with median age at death of 72 years. Malignant airway obstruction may potentially be treated with local, direct infusion of drugs into the bronchial wall and adventitia (the tissue between smooth muscle layers and cartilage) or directly into the tumor. Diseases of the bronchi, such as malignant airway obstruction, asthma, chronic bronchitis, arise in the sub-epithelial bronchial wall, and thus local treatment beyond the epithelium is warranted.
The major goals of interventional pulmonology are to improve breathing while minimizing infections through minimally invasive procedures within the airways. In patients with compromised airways, the daily struggle to breath can be extremely difficult even with supplemental oxygen. A partial relief of airway obstruction can have remarkable effects on symptoms and quality of life. Mercator has developed the Blowfish™ Transbronchial Micro-Infusion Device to enable precision drug delivery to airway walls. Prior to the techniques developed by Mercator, drugs were administered to bronchi with swabs or crude biopsy needles.
Treatment options for bronchial carcinoma over the past two decades have grown to include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgical resection, photodynamic therapy (PDT), argon plasma coagulation (APC), brachytherapy, and laser resection. Each of these therapeutic options carries risks and leads to recurrence of malignant airway obstruction often within 2 months of the therapy. Our goal is to minimize risks of localized treatment of carcinoma in situ associated with PDT, laser, APC therapies, etc. but offer similar benefit. Local bronchial wall delivery of drugs can also be an important treatment as adjuvant therapy for metastatic or benign diseases that cause airway narrowing.