Researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University and Virginia Tech have developed a molecule that could be used to help diagnose as well as treat brain tumors.
One of the most deadly and common brain tumors, glioblastoma, is difficult to visualize using standard imaging modalities. By simultaneously imaging and attacking the tumor cells, the compound could delay or avert a relapse of the tumor.
The researchers demonstrated in an animal study that a nanoparticle, when used with an MRI contrast agent, could facilitate imaging of the brain tumor while also providing radiation therapy.
Some details from the announcement:
The nanoparticle filled with gadolinium, a sensitive MRI contrast agent for imaging, and coupled with radioactive lutetium 177 to deliver brachytherapy, is known as a theranostic agent – a single compound capable of delivering simultaneously effective treatment and imaging. The lutetium 177 is attached to the outside of the carbon cage of the nanoparticle.
“We believe the clustering properties of this nanoplatform prolong its retention within the tumor, thereby allowing a higher radiation dose to be delivered locally,” said Michael Shultz, Ph.D., a research fellow in Fatouros’ lab in the Department of Radiology in the VCU School of Medicine.
“This theranostic agent could potentially provide critical data about tumor response to therapy by means of longitudinal imaging without further contrast administration,” said Fatouros.
A nanoparticle called a functionalized metallofullerene (fMF), also known as a “buckyball,” served as the basis of this work and was created by study collaborator, Harry Dorn, Ph.D., a chemistry professor at Virginia Tech, and his team. In 1999, Dorn and his colleagues were able to encapsulate rare earth metals in the hollow interior of these nanoparticles that can easily be recognized by MRI techniques.
“Although this is a limited animal study, it shows great promise and hopefully this metallofullerene platform will be extended to humans,” said Dorn.