Thorne Research Inc., a 25-year-old practitioner supplement company specializing in hypoallergenic products, announced May 11 that it is receiving a minority investment from the Helsinn Group, a pharmaceutical company based in Lugano, Switzerland. The undisclosed investment will be used to develop a line of supplement products specifically formulated to meet the structure/function needs of cancer patients. Eventually the two companies plan to create a stand-alone joint venture focused on providing products for the cancer support market, as well as on educating oncologists and patients about the nutritional, exercise and lifestyle needs of people living with cancer.

“People can live with cancer for many years, and our focus is on providing the best integrative products that will enable those people to live longer, better and more normal lives,” Helsinn Group CEO Riccardo Braglia told

Helsinn already sells a variety of pharmaceutical products targeted to the cancer support market. These include Aloxi, an injection that eases chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting; and Gelclair, a gel that helps decrease the pain of lesions caused by chemotherapy and helps prevent further breakouts. Hoping to expand into the natural products market, Helsinn consulted with leading U.S. oncologists, who confirmed the need for high-quality nutrition-based products formulated for people living with cancer, Braglia said. “Cancer patients have specific food supplement needs, but they also often have doubts about the quality of supplement products and about the proper dosages that are best for them,” he added.

Helsinn chose Thorne Research as its partner for creating these products because of the supplement company’s reputation for manufacturing quality. “I have seen other food supplement manufacturing plants, and nothing compares to Thorne’s facility in Idaho,” Braglia said.

Thorne Research CEO Paul Jacobson said Helsinn’s clinical research expertise and appreciation of dietary supplements make the European pharmaceutical company an ideal partner. “[Helsinn] has a very positive view of natural products,” Jacobson said. “They will play a very large role in selecting the products we take to market.”

Although specific products have yet to be announced, Jacobson said a pipeline of 10 to 15 supplement offerings is in the works. These could include supplements for nausea relief and skin care, which are both needed by people undergoing chemotherapy, radiation and other cancer therapies. The products will be sold exclusively through licensed healthcare practitioners, including oncologists. They will carry a separate brand that has not yet been unveiled, Jacobson said.

Providing nutritional and other health and wellness information to practitioners and their patients is a key focus of the Thorne-Helsinn Partnership, Jacobson added. Thorne will use its recently announced Health Elements website to facilitate practitioner outreach and education. “The primary goal is to provide education on specific products and become the go-to-place for physicians to find information about natural products,” Jacobson said.