Piercing the body with precision  pg. 6

Currently the researchers are searching for peptides and antibodies that zero in on tumor blood vessels following low-dose irradiation in combination with Sutent (SU11248).

“That’s why it takes so long to get a drug or an antibody to market,” explains Raymond L. Mernaugh, Ph.D., director of the Molecular Recognition and Screening Facility in the Vanderbilt Institute of Chemical Biology who is participating in the research. “You go through all these steps to prove that you have something that’s very specific, doing exactly what you want.”

Sutent is a “targeted” cancer therapy, now in clinical trials, which blocks an enzyme key to the development of tumor blood vessels. Not all tumors or patients respond to targeted therapy, however. Hallahan’s goal is to develop a way of determining within hours, rather than weeks, whether the drug is working.

Meanwhile, Giorgio and his colleagues have identified peptides capable of penetrating the nuclei of cells in the breast, and which potentially can differentiate normal cells from tumors. By attaching gold nanoparticles to the peptides, this method could generate an early and extremely precise view of breast cancer.

Similarly, the recent discovery of neural stem cells could lead to improvements in the early detection and treatment of gliomas. Scientists believe these stem cells, the source of normal brain tissue, under some circumstances can be transformed into tumors.

“Let’s say you could image the stem cells,” Thompson imagines. “Then you could see that your therapy made (the abnormal cells) go away… I hope we would get to a point where if somebody came in with a tumor we’d be able to simply flip the switch and shut it off and keep it from progressing… without having to do surgery.

“It is absolutely changing the way we think about these kinds of cancers.”

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