The University of Sydney’s Drug Discovery Initiative awarded the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) $80,000 in seed funding to manufacture molecules of tumour-targeting triphenylphosphonium (TPP) units, linked to metal chelators. The molecules are suitable for containing radioisotopes in theranostic applications.
This funding will help research into the TPP for use in treating cancer, with one radioisotope serving as the diagnostic, and the other as the therapeutic.
The diagnostic agents will be injected into tumour cells, allowing for the detection of radiation that will allow medical imaging. Another dose of radiation would be injected into the tumour to deliver a therapy.
The funding for this procedure will be used to develop personalised cancer therapy.
“Our approach will allow flexibility in both the diagnostic and therapeutic radioisotopes incorporated into the TTP agent. We can then tailor a specific agent towards the desired treatment outcome,” said ANSTO team member Dr Nigel Lengkeek.
In addition to the newly developed approach to treating cancer in the cells, the ANSTO team will investigate whether the TPP agent could be used for Neutron Capture Enhanced Particle Therapy (NCEPT).
This method avoids damaging healthy tissue with radiation while delivering a significant dose to secondary lesions that are outside the primary treatment area.
Team member, Dr Mitra Safavi-Naeini, outlined the steps through which nuclear research can lead to the manufacture of new medical agents.
“Our team is breaking into new territory and exploring new ways of treating cancer that may have enormous potential. We have already shown that these agents are very deadly to tumour cells under NCEPT conditions. Next, we hope to demonstrate that they can work in animal models. Once we have done that successfully, we can push forward into human clinical trials,” said Safavi-Naeini.
If successful, the treatment will be the first to use the chemical element, gadolinium-157, in humans.