Having had several members of my extended family afflicted by various forms of cancer, some fatally, I tend to notice (and track) any news relating to cancer therapies, treatment and potential cures.

That's how I came across a little-known Salt Lake City company several years ago that was working on technologies used to help destroy cancer cells — BSD Medical (OTC BB: BSDM).

Hence, I was quite interested to see news last month that the company had received approval from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration for BSD's technologies to improve treatments for prostate, cervical, breast, and head and neck cancers.

Interested enough that I decided to go see for myself what was going on at BSD Medical, which is how I met Hyrum Mead, BSD's 56-year-old president and chief executive officer.

With the automotive traffic on 2100 South as a backdrop, I met with Mead in his second-story office as he unfolded the story of BSD Medical.

Turns out the company has been around for close to forever - 25-plus years - although Mead only joined the firm about four-and-a-half years ago.

Most recently, Mead had served as president of Electro Controls and vice president of ZERO Enclosures (both in Utah), and when he joined BSD he found a company that had gone public through a reverse shell merger in 1997 and was bumping along at under $1.00 per share.

Within six to nine months, BSDM had jumped to more than $4.00 per share on dramatically increased volume before beginning its slide back to the $1.00 price range. Until, that is, the middle of last year when the stock began climbing again.

Before addressing BSD's prospects from a financial perspective, let's shift gears to focus on cancer for a bit.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States each year, with more than 500,000 cancer-related deaths and more than a million new cancer cases reported last year alone.

Simply put, cancers are cell-growth run amok. These mutated cells require more energy to survive than cells of normal tissue.

As these malignant tissues grow explosively, they generally outstrip the ability of the blood supply, causing weird blood vessel growth inside a tumor and leaving cancerous cells oxygen-starved as a result.

Unfortunately, both radiation and chemotherapy treatments rely on the blood system to help defeat cancer.

For example, an outcome of radiation therapy is the fact that the treatments cause the formation of what are called "free radicals" in the bloodstream - molecules of oxygen that are broken apart by the radiation to form unstable negative oxygen ions that attack DNA strands in cancerous cells.

On the other hand, chemotherapy relies on the patient's blood to deliver chemicals to the tumor, a difficult task if the tumor's blood system is messed up.

Finding a way to solve these two problems has been the focus of BSD Medical for some time.

The solution, according to Mead, is conceptually quite simple.

Turns out the body's network of blood vessels serves as the body's cooling (and heating) system.

Hence (in a very simplistic explanation) when you get a sunburn, your skin turns red because the body is pumping more blood to the skin in an effort to cool off (and heal) the burned area.

BSD's scientists realized that if they could find a way to selectively raise the temperature of targeted tissues on or inside the body, the body would push blood into the area at a greater rate, providing more oxygen for radiation treatments and greater delivery capacity for chemotherapies to work.

So that's what they did.

Using very sophisticated microwave generators from BSD and sensitive imaging systems, medical professionals can now deliver beams of energy directly at tumors deep within the body or on the skin to give those tumors the equivalent of a fever.

The term for this is hyperthermia.

During the procedure, the tightly controlled energy beams raise the tumor temperature to around 105 degrees Fahrenheit. This is not high enough to cause serious harm to the body or the surrounding non-cancerous tissues, but just enough to cause the body to flood the area with blood in an attempt to cool off the feverish region.

The results in study after study are amazing as survival and life expectancy rates among cancer patients have as much as doubled.

And we're not talking hocus-pocus, funky medicine here either.

Rather a plethora of peer-reviewed journal articles have been published on the successful use of BSD's technologies in such respected publications as Cancer and THE LANCET, while similar papers have been presented at events such as the "American Society of Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology" and the "International Congress of Hyperthermic Oncology."

The company completed a $2 million PIPE offering last fall (private investment in a public equity), giving it additional capital to begin the process of marketing and selling its systems throughout the U.S. — systems that sell for between $150,000 to $1 million each.

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"Our defined focus is cancer," Mead said. "We know that half the people that get cancer die from it. Our business has a serious cause behind it, and that's why we're working to help people who have cancer right now."

Sounds like a good cause, and a good business, to me.

David Politis leads Politis Communications, a public relations, investor relations and marketing communications agency specializing in the high-tech and life science markets.

E-mail: dpolitis@politis.com.

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