Dr. Rafael Carbunaru and his team at Boston Scientific (NYSE:BSX) have spent the last twenty years building, among other things, the Vercise deep brain stimulation system in an attempt to deliver precise, personalized therapy for people with Parkinson’s disease.
“It’s a labor of love,” the VP of R&D told MassDevice.com.
Carbunaru estimated there are roughly 1.2 million people in the U.S. with Parkinson’s disease, with 50,000 new cases diagnosed every year.
“There are about 240,000 patients that we would assume are eligible for deep brain stimulation, but only about 5% are getting implanted today,” he explained.
The company sees an opportunity to tackle this market with its rechargeable Vercise system. The device represents a “brand new approach to neuromodulation,” Carbunaru said.
The Vercise system makes use of multiple independent current sources, allowing users to select small, precise targets to stimulate in the brain. Rafa and his team tackled this engineering challenge with the hopes of customizing the size and shape of the therapy’s stimulation field to individual patients.
“What we’re trying to do is to learn to speak ‘brain-ish’ to the nervous system. And every time that we’ve done that, every time we’ve understood what parts of the nervous system to stimulate, what parts of the nervous system to avoid and how to deliver the right message through to the neuron elements of the brain, we have been able to achieve better outcomes,” he said.
Last month, Boston Scientific presented two-year data from its Intrepid RCT at the 18th meeting of the World Society for Stereotactic and Foundational Neurosurgery. The 160-patient study followed participants for two years after DBS surgery with the Vercise system.
The company reported that at two years, patients had a 46% improvement in motor symptoms compared to pre-surgery screening.
“What was very interesting is that these improvements in motor function and the amount of reduction of medication intake was sustained,” Carbunaru said. “In a progressive disease, you would imagine that the results may not sustain over a prolonged period of time, but in our case, we’re able to sustain up to two years.”
He pointed out that in a different study of a previous-generation DBS system, patients experienced a 26% improvement in motor function.
“That difference in motor function was a very good surprise,” he said. “When we designed the systems we hoped to provide better outcomes and provide meaningful innovation, but when you get the results and you get to see them, it’s definitely very comforting to know that these 20 years that we dedicated to the product have been well worth it.”
“The main message to physicians is to let them know that we are advancing technology,” Carbunaru added. “We are working very hard to do that. In Boston Scientific, we really are transforming DBS with the most innovative platforms, with the goal of optimizing the individual patient outcomes – and I think these results prove that.”