#2: Radioactive Molecules that Hunt and Kill Cancer
PSMA, or prostate membrane-specific antigen, is a protein that is primarily found on the surface of prostate and prostate cancer cells. The protein becomes like a unique signature that can be tracked by small molecules or proteins that are injected into your bloodstream. Researchers discovered that if you attach a radioactive isotope to the PSMA-targeting molecule (together known as a “radiopharmaceutical”), you have a particularly effective way of hunting down and killing prostate cancer cells that are outside the prostate.
In other words, instead of putting a pill in your body, doctors inject a radioactive pharmaceutical that acts like a homing device, traveling through the body until it reaches its target: PSMA. These particles are particularly good at accurately identifying – and killing – prostate cancer metastasis throughout the body.
This is huge.
Some patients undergoing PSMA radionuclide therapy have seen tumor metastases shrink to amazing degrees. However, standardized clinical trials have yet to be conducted for these new treatments, to definitively prove efficacy and establish the best way to deliver this treatment.
In recognition of the dire need to conduct rigorous clinical studies on this highly promising therapy and accelerate the establishment of this treatment for patients, in 2017, PCF awarded three $1 Million PCF Challenge Awards to physicians at UCLA, Weill Cornell Medicine and in Australia who are conducting trials testing PSMA-targeting radiopharmaceutical treatments and studying the biology of these treatments.
Targeting PSMA for prostate cancer treatment was pioneered by PCF-funded investigators including Neil Bander at Weill Cornell Medicine.
For more detail on 2017’s Challenge Award Winners check out: