Mr. Aaron Manzi '12 is on the front lines of a breakthrough treatment for oral cancer that was recently approved for clinical trials – a significant milestone in the biomedical world. As the current Project Lead at Privo Technologies, Inc., Aaron has been in the trenches for the past five years, designing a safe chemotherapy patch (PRV111) that has the potential of shifting the treatment paradigm of oral cancers.
The patch looks similar to a bandage and is placed directly onto the tumor to keep the drug local in the tissue. The patch contains nanoparticles filled with chemotherapy, and they are released into the tumor to target cancer cells. Other polymers in the patch form a barrier to ensure that the medicine doesn’t enter the rest of the body, it stays locally in the tumor.
“Right now, oral cancer patients must undergo extensive surgery to make sure all of the tumor is removed. PRV111 is used as a treatment prior to surgery to shrink the tumor, so hopefully in the future if clinical trials are successful, doctors won’t have to conduct such intensive procedures,” said Aaron. “This treatment has the potential to shift how cancer is treated, to focus on only giving chemotherapy where it’s needed."
PRV111 disregards age, weight, gender, etc. and only focuses on the size of the tumor. "We are able to deliver significantly higher concentrations to the tumor, while seeing fractions of that in the blood,” said Aaron. “The long-term goal is to use the patch instead of surgery to help cure all kinds of cancers and truly improve a patient’s quality of life."
Before becoming a bioengineering professional, Aaron – who is part of a CCHS legacy with grandfather Mr. Ronald Caux '55, mother Mrs. Lisa Caux (Saint Mary HS '80) and brother Mr. Justin Manzi '15 - was a student at Central Catholic with a passion for science. When it was time to take the SATs, he took the advice of his guidance counselor and decided to take the test twice which resulted in Aaron scoring in the top three percent (3%) of entering freshmen at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell. He received a co-op scholarship that gave him an opportunity to have an internship while working at the University – he then connected with Privo, where he has worked his way up from intern to PRV111 Project Lead. Along the way, he was trained by many post-doctoral fellows at UMass Lowell and MIT’s Langer Lab where he developed the skills necessary to further PRV111 development.
PRV111 has now been in clinical trials since June 2018 and is currently recruiting patients in hospitals at the Baylor College of Medicine, University of Texas Health, and the University of Cincinnati Cancer Center medical facilities.
Thank you Aaron for contributing to finding a cure for cancer! We appreciate you sharing your gifts with the world.