Coming soon, ‘magic bullet’ to find tumours and destroy them

Oncologists have come closer to a powerful “magic bullet” that can find tumours wherever they hide in the body so that they can be imaged and then destroyed.

Until recently scientists accepted the notion that such an agent, an agonist, needed to enter and accumulate in the cancerous cells to act.

But an international research team has now found in cancer patients that an investigational agent that sticks onto the surface of tumour cells without triggering internalisation, an antagonist, may be safer and even more effective than agonists.

In a pilot study of five patients, the researchers demonstrated that their “antagonist”, 111In-DOTA-BASS, outperformed the “agonist” agent, OctreoScan, that is widely used in the clinic to image neuroendocrine tumours bearing somatostatin receptors.

“This is the first proof of principle in humans that labelled peptide antagonists can effectively image tumours. Additional research suggests that we could one day use a different radioactive metal to effectively kill the tumours,” said Dr. Jean Rivier, one of the Salk Institute’s leading researchers.

The study was published in the September issue of the Journal of Nuclear Medicine.

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