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Nanotherapy: Tiny tools hit brain tumors with big radiation

Posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2012 · Volume: XLV · Issue: 6


Andrew Brenner, M.D., Ph.D., who led the laboratory study with animal models, also will lead a new clinical study expected to begin this summer.
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Andrew Brenner, M.D., Ph.D., who led the laboratory study with animal models, also will lead a new clinical study expected to begin this summer. clear graphic

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Contact: Elizabeth Allen, 210-450-2020

SAN ANTONIO (March 19, 2012) — For the past 40 years, radiation has been the most effective method for treating deadly brain tumors called glioblastomas.

Although the targeting technology has been refined, beams of radiation still must pass through healthy brain tissue to reach the tumor, and patients can only tolerate small amounts before developing serious side effects.

A group of researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio have developed a way to deliver nanoparticle radiation directly to the brain tumor and keep it there.

The method doses the tumor itself with much higher levels of radiation — 20 to 30 times the current dose of radiation therapy to patients — but spares a much greater area of brain tissue.

Clinical study planned
The study, published March 19 in the journal Neuro-Oncology, has been successful in laboratory experiments so researchers are preparing to start a clinical trial at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC), part of the UT Health Science Center. Andrew Brenner, M.D., Ph.D., is the study’s corresponding author and a neuro-oncologist at the CTRC. He also will lead the new clinical trial beginning this summer.

“We saw that we could deliver much higher doses of radiation in animal models,” Dr. Brenner said. “We were able to give it safely and we were able to completely eradicate tumors.”

The radiation comes in the form of an isotope called rhenium-186, which has a short half-life. Once placed inside the tumor, the rhenium emits radiation that only extends out a few millimeters.

Encapsulation keeps the radiation inside the tumor
Simply putting the rhenium into a brain tumor would not work well without a way to keep it there — the tiny particles would be picked up by the bloodstream and carried away. That problem was solved by a team led by nuclear medicine physician William T. Phillips, M.D., and biochemist Beth A. Goins, Ph.D., in the Department of Radiology; and Ande Bao, Ph.D., a medical physicist and pharmaceutical chemist in the Department of Otolaryngology, all of the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center. They encapsulated the rhenium in miniscule fat molecules, or liposomes, about 100 nanometers across.

Novel technology
“The technology is unique,” Dr. Brenner said. “Only we can load the liposomes to these very high radioactivity levels.”

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The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the elite academic cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Cancer Center, and is one of only four in Texas. A leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in development of cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit www.ctrc.net.

 
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