The University of Tennessee Graduate School of Medicine, Knoxville


Preclinical Scientists Contribute to Groundbreaking Radiation Therapy Research

In a new study, researchers have demonstrated the ability to harness powerful radioactive particles and direct them toward small cancer tumors while doing negligible damage to healthy organs and tissues. The collaborative study among the University of Missouri, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the UT Graduate School of Medicine, was recently published in Plos One, an international, peer-reviewed journal.

Radiation treatment with radioisotopes targeted with antibodies has traditionally employed the use of radiation particles known as beta particles. Scientists, including Jonathan Wall, PhD, Director,Preclinical and Diagnostic Molecular Imaging Laboratory, and Stephen Kennel, PhD, Radio-Biochemist, PDMIL, have been studying how to use more powerful alpha particles instead, which act locally (within a few cell diameters), but have 7,000 times the killing potential of beta particles. The challenge has been confining the alpha particles to the cancerous cells in the body to preserve healthy organs and tissue.

Dr. Kennel and Saed Mirzadeh, PhD, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, have been working with alpha emitting radioisotopes since the early 1990s. Original work was done with Bi-213, which emits only one alpha particle and has a short half-life of 45 minutes. To increase the potency of targeted alpha therapy, the researchers have been working with actinium, which emits four alpha particles per atom and has a much longer half-life of 10 days. However, when the actinium atom decays, it can come loose from its target and cause damage in normal tissue in other parts of the body. That's when Mark McLaughlin, PhD Candidate, and J. David Robertson, PhD, Professor, in the Department of Chemistry at the University of Missouri, designed a gold-plated nanoparticle to serve as a holding cell for the alpha particles that keeps them at the cancer site. This device has been called a nonogenerator and is very lethal to tumor cells. The team has shown that targeting of the nanogenerator actinium can be followed by molecular imaging and that in a preclinical model system, it can provide effective therapy for lung metastasis of breast cancer. The goal now is to find a good way to translate this finding into a clinically useful product.

The research team includes:

Rose Boll, PhD, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Stephen Kennel, PhD, UT Graduate School of Medicine
Mark McLaughlin, University of Missouri, Columbia
Saed Mirzadeh, PhD, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
J. David Robertson, PhD, University of Missouri, Columbia
Adam Rondinone, PhD, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
Jonathan Wall, PhD, UT Graduate School of Medicine
Jonathan Woodward, PhD, Oak Ridge National Laboratory

April 25, 2013



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