Scientists at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center (UWCCC) report that a new class of tumor-targeting agents can seek out and find dozens of solid tumors, even illuminating brain cancer stem cells that resist current treatments.
What's more, years of animal studies and early human clinical trials show that this tumor-targeting, alkylphosphocholine (APC) molecule can deliver two types of "payloads" directly to cancer cells: a radioactive or fluorescent imaging label, or a radioactive medicine that binds and kills cancer cells. The results are reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine, and featured in the journal's cover illustration and podcast.
The APC targeting platform is a synthetic molecule that exploits a weakness common to cancers as diverse as breast, lung, brain and melanoma. These cancer cells lack the enzymes to metabolize phospholipid ethers, a cell membrane component that is easily cleared by normal cells. When given in an intravenous solution, APC goes throughout the body -- even across the blood-brain barrier -- and sticks to the membrane of cancer cells.
Kuo says the fluorescent intraoperative APC imaging might help make cancer surgeries more effective and safer; any cancer cells that cannot be safely removed can be targeted afterwards with radioactive APC therapy. In addition, APC imaging might avoid the "false positive" results of current imaging, so cancer patients can stay on effective therapies and likely avoid the risks and costs of "second look" surgeries.