Radiation therapy is commonly used for the treatment of patients with cancer. Radiation makes small breaks in the DNA inside cancer cells. These breaks keep cancer cells from growing and dividing and, as a result, cause them to die. On average, more than half of all cancer patients will be treated with radiation therapy. This can be either as the sole treatment or treatment in combination with other treatments, such as surgery, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.
People with hard-to-reach cancers in the kidney, gut, and prostate will have improved hope for early diagnosis and treatment with new research aimed at increasing the shelf life of revolutionary radiation drugs.
Funding of $ AU 2.5 million (U.S. $ 1.44 million) will kickstart a two-year manufacturing research project that will harness the combined expertise of the School of Chemistry and Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre to increase the shelf-life of radiation drugs, so they can be shipped to patients globally.
Telix Pharmaceuticals (Melbourne, Australia), a clinical-stage biotechnology company developing a pipeline of advanced theranostic products for a number of unmet medical needs in cancer care, and Cyclotek (Bundoora, Victoria, Australia), a company developing PET Radiopharmaceuticals (tracers) for the Australian and New Zealand market, with co-funding from the Innovative Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (IMCRC), a cooperative research center helping Australian companies increase their global relevance, will contribute AU$ 1 million (U.S. $ 580.000.00) to the project and will lead the research to create a manufacturing production process. They will also work with external partners, including iphase Technologies and GenesisCare, which includes medical centers to develop and streamline the manufacturing process.
Radiopharmaceuticals can be used to locate and see cancer cells in the body, including hard-to-reach places using imaging technology, Positron Emission Tomography (PET).
By capturing the radioisotope in a selective ‘cage-like’ molecule and fusing it to a targeting molecule, such as in the cases of a radioisotope labeled monoclonal antibody, radiation can be directly transported to the cancerous cells for the detection of tumors.
In the case of kidney, neuroendocrine and prostate cancers, there are specific ‘homing’ molecules that can transport the radioactive cargo to the cancer cells, including those that are hidden in the hard-to-reach nooks and crannies of the body like the gut, kidney, and prostate.
Again, the process makes it possible to diagnose cancer cells that would otherwise go undetected. Once diagnosed, a higher energy radioisotope can then be used to destroy the cancer cells.
The ability of the drugs to target cancer cells also reduces the number of healthy cells that are damaged by more traditional ways of administering radiation therapy.
“It has taken years of basic research at the School of Chemistry and Bio21 Institute to develop the carrier compounds that are the principle behind this technology,” said University of Melbourne Professor Paul Donnelly, Ph.D., from the School of Chemistry and Bio21 Institute, based in Melbourne, Australia. Donnelly is head of the Donnelly group with research focusing on the application of synthetic inorganic chemistry to biology as well as investigating the role of metal ions in biology and the use of metal ions in chemical synthesis.
“It’s exciting to see these compounds being developed for clinical use and manufacture,” Donnelly added.
Currently, isotopes are being produced locally within the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre for cancer patients by Cyclotek.
“The challenge is to create radio-labeled diagnostic and therapeutic agents with a longer half-life, that lend themselves to manufacture and distribution beyond the hospital walls,” said Michael Wheatcroft BSc(Hons), Ph.D. Chief Executive Officer of Telix Pharmaceuticals.
Commenting on the manufacturing research project and how this will open up a world of potential to treat cancer more effectively, David Chuter, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of the Innovative Manufacturing CRC concluded: “This project will build the foundation to safely and cost-effectively manufacture life-changing targeted cancer radiation drugs in Australia, and export them to the world.”