The Laboratory for Radiopharmaceutical Therapy and Dosimetry at Johns Hopkins Medicine, headed by George Sgouros, Ph.D., has been awarded a $15 million grant from the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health, to be distributed over the next five years. This funding will support research into a type of radiation therapy for heavily treatable cancer types.
The grant will finance several research projects, all focused on a promising cancer treatment known as Alpha-Particle-Emitter Radiopharmaceutical Therapy, or Alpha-Emitter-RPT. This therapy has shown success in treating widespread, treatment-resistant cancer types by delivering radiation directly to cancer cells.
When administered into the bloodstream, Alpha-Emitter-RPT delivers highly effective radiation directly to cancer cells. Radioactive atoms emitting alpha particles (helium nuclei) are bound to specific molecules that target or adhere to dispersed cancer cells in the body. Alpha particles released at cancer cells cause massive DNA damage, leading to cancer cell death. Alpha-Emitter-RPT also limits the extent of damage to normal tissues surrounding the cancer, potentially reducing some of the debilitating side effects that may occur from radiation and chemotherapy in cancer patients.
Sgouros, who has researched this particular treatment throughout his career, has previously shown the high effectiveness of this therapy in treating various metastatic cancers that do not respond to conventional radiation and chemotherapy.
Several drugs using this approach to deliver radiation therapy against treatment-resistant cancer have been approved by the FDA in the last decade, and Sgouros explains that the need to improve the delivery of these treatments and explore additional specific radiation treatments is growing.
„Research into these types of radiation treatments is a very active field that also represents a niche. It is a unique area of research requiring a multidisciplinary team to fully optimize such therapies. Everything from physics, radiochemistry, biology, and pharmacokinetics influences this treatment approach.“
George Sgouros, Director of the Department of Radiological Physics and Professor of Radiology and Radiological Science at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
With the $15 million award, Sgouros and a diverse group of researchers in the lab will now work to refine Alpha-Emitter-RPT and optimize its application. This includes developing imaging approaches and understanding how radiation deposits in tissues so that treatment can be tailored to each individual patient. Sgouros and his assembled team will specifically focus on the mathematical and physical components of Alpha-Emitter-RPT to address these issues.
„We have received this grant because we are the group that can solve these problems,“ says Sgouros. „This award is proof of the collective expertise we have here at Hopkins, and what we have proposed with this grant can only be achieved with the group of researchers we have assembled here.“