A PhD student at King’s College London in England developed a new prostate cancer tracer — called 68Ga-THP-PSMA — that is low-cost, quick, and easy to produce.
The tracer, which targets the PSMA protein, can be easily produced in smaller clinics and hospitals and is expected to extend diagnostic scans to more patients.
The radioactive compound was developed by Jennifer Young with support from King’s College London and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Biomedical Research Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. It is designed for use in positron emission emission tomography (PET) scans.
The study describing the manufacturing process and preclinical testing is titled, “68Ga-THP-PSMA: A PET Imaging Agent for Prostate Cancer Offering Rapid, Room-Temperature, 1-Step Kit-Based Radiolabeling,” and appeared in The Journal of Nuclear Medicine.
PET scans are a specialized radiology procedure that uses small amounts of a radiotracer to examine various body tissues. Specifically, PET studies evaluate the metabolism of a particular organ or tissue, helping doctors evaluate the organ’s function (physiology), structure (anatomy), and its biochemical properties.
In cancer, PET tracers are usually designed to target a molecule that is highly produced by the cancer cells. This means that the radioactive tracer will accumulate in the areas where the cancer cells are located, allowing physicians to visualize the tumor, sometimes before other symptoms appear.
There are abnormal amounts of PSMA protein in prostate cancer cells, and tracers targeting this molecule have already shown their utility in staging newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients and detecting early prostate cancer recurrence with higher sensitivity than conventional imaging agents.
However, the production of these agents is time-consuming and needs expensive equipment and radiochemistry expertise.
Now, Young has developed a new PSMA tracer that can be quickly and easily produced in a radio-pharmacy using a simplified, one-step kit. The tracer was safe in prostate cancer patients, and was specific to PSMA-positive prostate cancer lesions.
“The tracer Jennifer has developed will give more patients access to potentially lifesaving scans,” Prof. Philip Blower, of King’s College School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences, said in a press release. “The low-cost and relatively straightforward production process means that smaller hospitals and not just the biggest specialist hospitals can produce it for their patients.”
“We hope this will be the first of several tracers based on this technology for application to other cancers, not just prostate,” added Blower, who supervised Young’s work with Dr. Greg Mullen at Theragnostics.
Theragnostics is a clinical stage radiopharmaceutical company developing a series of agents to improve cancer detection and management.
“We are proud to present the results of this Phase I study alongside our colleagues at the trial’s sponsor, the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, and King’s College London,” said Mullen, chief executive officer of Theragnostics.
“These data demonstrate the disruptive technology of 68Ga-THP-PSMA, by simplifying and speeding up current production, while providing increased imaging sensitivity to support the discovery of prostate cancer.
“We are rapidly moving forward with the clinical development of 68Ga-THP-PSMA, and working with regulatory bodies to address an unmet clinical need by bringing this technology to prostate cancer patients,” Mullen added.