Diagnosis and treatment at the same time? With theranostics, it's possible

March 27, 2019 | by Zen Vuong

CAT scan of man and woman nurse - small low res A new type of therapy allows doctors to identify and treat cancer at the same time.
A City of Hope scientist and his colleagues have developed a user-friendly approach to creating "theranostics" — therapy combined with diagnostics — that target specific tumors and diseases.
 
Key to the process are molecules called metallocorroles, which serve as versatile platforms for the development of drugs and imaging agents. Metallcorroles both locate (via imaging) and kill tumors. City of Hope’s John Termini, Ph.D., and his colleagues at Caltech and the Israel Institute of Technology have developed a novel method to prepare cell-penetrating nanoparticles called “metallocorrole/protein nanoparticles.” The theranostics could both survive longer in the body and better snipe disease targets.
 
“This study is just one of City of Hope’s many ongoing research projects that aim to move the field from conventional medicine to precision medicine, where therapies are tailored for specific individuals,” said Termini, a molecular medicine professor at City of Hope.
 
The study, published in Scientific Reports, a Nature publication, on Feb. 19, details a unique way the researchers prepared the theranostics that may be generalizable to many similar molecules.
 
“While corroles have shown great promise in this application, directing them specifically to cellular and tissue targets, e.g., the brain, was an unsolved technical problem,” Termini said. “This manuscript describes and characterizes a general approach for preparing protein nanoparticles where the protein ‘coat’ directs the encapsulated corrole to specific targets such as breast cancers or tumors in the brain for imaging and therapy applications.”
 
“Through collaborative brainpower, we were able to create something that has huge chemotherapeutic potential,” Termini said. “Down the road, theranostics such as this could shorten treatment duration and diminish the dreaded side effects so many cancer patients fear.”
 
The study was supported by an international collaboration grant from the Jacki and Bruce Barron Cancer Research Scholars’ Program, The Harvey L. Miller Family Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Caltech/City of Hope Biomedical Initiative. Established in 2016 by City of Hope and the Israel Cancer Research Fund, the goal of the Barron program is to foster innovative, collaborative research and promote the exchange of ideas among exceptional researchers in the United States and Israel. The program seeks to advance scientists' understanding of cancer and develop lifesaving therapies, novel diagnostic approaches and prevention strategies by leveraging the shared knowledge and resources of the two countries. The program was made possible by a $5 million gift from The Harvey L Miller Family Foundation.
 
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