Highly promising results from clinical trials indicate that alpha-emitting radioisotopes can kill cancer cells. The Commission’s Joint Research Centre (JRC) and Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum presented this innovative therapy during a recent workshop in Heidelberg. Alpha-immunotherapy should develop into an effective treatment over the next few years and provide new methods of healing for patients. How does the cancer-killing mechanism work? A cancer-cell selective vehicle, (e.g. a monocolonal antibody or a peptide) is connected to a powerful radioactive isotope. As it radioactively decays, the isotope emits particles that can either directly or indirectly kill any cancer cells it encounters. Said EU Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin: "More research is needed, but experts tell us that the results from pre-clinical and first clinical trials are promising. Search-and-destroy isotopes should be helpful in fighting a great number of cancers such as leukaemia, lymphoma (haematological malignancies), microscopic, intraperitoneally growing cancers (e.g. ovarian, stomach), glioblastoma and post-operative treatment of glioma, melanomas, colon tumours, myeloma and palliative treatment of malignant ascites. Multi-disciplinary co-operations between Europe’s best teams are needed to advance this innovative approach. Cancer is a key priority in the EU’s next research programme, to be launched later this year."
One of the key targets of the European Commission’s Sixth Framework programme for Research and Development (2003-2006) is "Combating cancer". Altogether just over €1 billion is earmarked for combating major diseases, of which at least € 400 million should go to cancer research. The objective is to develop better strategies, from prevention to diagnosis and treatment, for fighting cancer. EU research will concentrate on translating the new knowledge being created by genomics and other fields of basic research into applications that improve clinical practice and public health.
As far as research on cancer-killing isotopes is concerned, currently only two organisations world-wide are able to produce such isotopes: the European Commission’s Institute for Transuranium Elements (a branch of the JRC) and the Oak Ridge National Laboratories in the US.
Fabio Fabbi | Europäische Kommission
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