05 February 2010

If the cancer does not give up, change the treatment tactics

Oncologists know that the success of therapy for aggressive malignant diseases, such as brain or lung cancer, largely depends on how soon after the start of treatment it is possible to determine whether the tumor is shrinking or not. In case of ineffectiveness of therapy, the chances of a cure or relief of the patient's condition are higher the sooner the treatment tactics are changed.

To dispose of damaged, infected and unhealthy cells in the body, there is a special mechanism called apoptosis, which causes the cell to self-destruct. Regardless of the disease and the type of tissue, cells undergoing apoptosis share several distinctive properties: they change the electrical charge of the shell; the environment surrounding the cells becomes more acidic; lipids forming the cell shell lose their strictly ordered organization.

Specialists of the Israeli company Aposense, led by Ilan Ziv, have developed a label for conducting radioisotope tomography based on small molecules capable of recognizing dying cells with high accuracy and accumulating in them.

In the blood after administration and in healthy tissues, the label remains inactive. It is brought into working condition by the acidic environment surrounding the dying cells. The activated label recognizes the altered charge of their shells, binds to the cell walls, passes through them and accumulates inside the cells. The fluorine-18 isotope included in the label molecule makes it possible to visualize necrotizing tissue areas using radioisotope tomography.

Seven patients suffering from brain cancer participated in phase I clinical trials of the new label. Tomography performed before, immediately after, and six to eight weeks after radiotherapy demonstrated a significant relationship between the accumulation of the mark in necrotizing areas and the subsequent reduction of tumors.

According to Aaron Allen, head of clinical research, oncologist from Harvard Medical Institute and the Dana Farber Cancer Center, doctors are always looking for ways to assess the response to treatment. The more personalized the therapy, the better the patient. Any technique that allows you to accurately measure the effectiveness of the treatment at the earliest stages opens up wide opportunities for personalized therapy.

Since dying cells combine similar characteristics, the label developed in Aposense can be used in other fields of medicine. For example, in neurology, it will be possible to determine the consequences and severity of a stroke; in cardiology, to identify areas of vessels containing unstable atherosclerotic plaques; during organ transplantation, it will make it possible to identify areas of tissues that have not taken root at the earliest stages.

To confirm the effectiveness of the new label, Aposense plans to complete phase II clinical trials involving 90-100 volunteers suffering from malignant neoplasms of the brain, lungs, head and neck this year, and larger–scale phase III studies by 2012.

Daria Chervyakova
Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru based on Technology Review: Monitoring Cell Death Could Help Cancer Treatment05.02.2010

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