Cancer diagnosis and targeted therapies to flow from new NIF investment

Cancer research will advance and personalised treatment will come a step closer, with installation of NIF’s new nanoScan PET/MRI 3T camera for preclinical studies.  

The camera is at the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI) and represents a significant national investment as part of NIF expertise and critical mass in molecular imaging and nuclear theranostics.  

Nuclear theranostics offers simultaneous imaging and therapy, enabling researchers and clinicians to see where targeted medicines go in the body in real time, identify drugs most likely to succeed and select patients who will benefit. 

It has the potential to improve quality of life and decrease health-related costs.  

NIF Fellow Dr Ingrid Burvenich from ONJCRI and La Trobe University has conducted MRI scans using the camera as part of work to develop diagnostic tools and cancer therapies. 

“We found that the high field 3T magnet has fast scanning times and high-quality images,” Dr Burvenich said.  

“We can already see that we have excellent delineation of organs and that will enable us to better identify specific tumours in the brain, abdominal organs and other cancer sites.  

“With the new camera, we will be able to explore new areas of cancer biology, metabolism and neuroscience, and also develop new imaging probes and therapeutics.  

“In our studies we answer questions such as: does the drug reach the tumour, is enough drug going into the tumour to be effective, and are there risks for toxicity?”  

Dr Burvenich’s tumour-targeting work involves collaboration with ONJCRI’s Centre for Research Excellence in Brain Cancer, focusing on research models that reflect the disease as it is seen in human patients.   

“We are very excited to try the new camera to image brain tumours to assist with developing new therapeutics.   

“Other ONJCRI collaborators are working on genetic models that develop tumours in the stomach or the intestine and surgical models for pancreatic cancer.  

“Increasing the visibility of such tumours will potentially make a difference in this research in monitoring how tumours establish, grow and respond to newly-developed therapeutics.  

“Our new camera will also assist with advancing research in heart disease, the brain and pharmaceutical drug development – especially in developing radiopharmaceuticals, medicines with radioactive isotopes that can be used as for both diagnosis and treatment.  

“We can evaluate the radiopharmaceuticals in preclinical models and then progress them into human trials.” 

NIF is investing in improved health outcomes through novel medical products, technologies and practices – including human imaging technologies, high value therapeutics and cutting-edge pharmaceutical treatments.  

Nuclear theranostics is increasingly being used for cancer imaging, detection and treatment, in clinical trials, and in research and development to counter a growing global incidence from 19.3 million new cases in 2020 to 28.4 million in 2040. 

It has a promising future, with estimated market valuations for 2021 ranging from $1.7 billion to $6 billion and annual growth ranging from 4 to 19 per cent within eight years.  

Imaging critical to brain cancer treatment

Imaging critical to brain cancer treatment: Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute to collaborate with Telix in ground-breaking new study

National Imaging Facility (NIF) Node partner, the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Research Institute (ONJCRI) will work with globally recognised biopharmaceutical company Telix to evaluate the use of a novel radiotracer (O-(2-[18F]fluoroethyl)-L-tyrosine or 18F-FET) to image patients with glioblastoma (GBM), a type of brain cancer, with positron emission tomography (PET) (FET-PET).

The collaboration between ONJCRI and Telix will enable a synergistic approach to improving the lives of people with GBM, which is the most common primary brain cancer in adults.

The ONJCRI is a global leader in the development of immunotherapies, targeted therapeutics, and personalised cancer medicine, while Telix is focused on the development of clinical-stage products that address significant unmet medical need in oncology and rare diseases.

The FET-PET in Glioblastoma (FIG) study will recruit up to 210 recently diagnosed adult GBM patients at 10 sites around Australia, aiming to definitively establish the role of FET-PET in the management of patients with GBM. The FIG Study is funded by the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF), the Australian Brain Cancer Mission (ABCM), and the Cure Brain Cancer Foundation, and also involves the Trans-Tasman Radiation Oncology Group (TROG) and the Australasian Radiopharmaceutical Trials Network (ARTnet). 

The NIF’s LaTrobe University – ONJCRI Node Director, and Clinical Trial Co-Chair, Prof Andrew Scott AM said the study would utilise imaging to bring critical new treatment opportunities to light and have potentially life-saving impacts.

“Imaging is integral to effective diagnosis, staging and determination of the treatment pathway for all cancers, but is vitally important in GBM which is very aggressive and can be difficult to treat,” Professor Scott said.

“This ground-breaking study will use 18F-FET, a new PET tracer which can show us if tumour cells are active. This is a more functional imaging technique compared to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), the current standard imaging tool, and could potentially provide a powerful imaging biomarker for the management of brain cancer and improve survival rates.”

National Imaging Facility CEO, Prof Wojtek Goscinski said the collaboration was an exciting opportunity to see the life-changing impacts that cutting-edge imaging capabilities can have on people living with debilitating illnesses.

“Medical imaging plays a critical role in the diagnosis, treatment and monitoring of life-threatening diseases like GBM,” Prof Goscinski said.

“It is excellent to see Australian-led research use imaging with the aim to improve the treatment of patients with GBM and save lives.

“It’s exciting for NIF’s LaTrobe University – ONJCRI node to be involved in an industry partnership that has the potential to expand the country’s economic growth, and position Australia as a global leader in cancer research,” he said.

You can read more about the announcement here.

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