Alpha particle immunotherapy for treating leukemia and solid-tumor metastases

A promising new cancer treatment is the outcomeof a successful technology transfer effort atPacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).Alpha particle immunotherapy (APIT) makes itpossible to effectively treat patients withmalignancies of the hematopoietic system—suchas leukemia—and metastasis from many solidtumors with fewer side effects than othertreatments. APIT combines the power of alphaparticle-emittingradioactive isotopes(actinium-225 or bismuth-213) with monoclonalantibodies that bind toand destroy specificcancer cells, but notnearby healthy tissue.Early trials at majorresearch centers yieldedvery encouraging results.The primary supplier ofAPIT is MedActinium, asmall radiopharmaceuticalfirm in Oak Ridge,Tennessee. The companyturned to PNNLresearchers to solve two obstacles to commercialuse of APIT: purifying the isotope, and binding itto the antibody to create a stable product. Thenominees transferred a new separationschemistry for generating bismuth-213 and a keyenabling technology for placing actinium-225 onmonoclonal antibodies. The result is that thesepowerful new radioisotopes are now available totreat patients with leukemia or fast-spreadingsolid-tumor cancers.This technology transfer involved collaborativeefforts among private industry, academic research institutions, and U.S. government agencies. Inmaking the transfer, PNNL built on relationshipswith the pharmaceutical industry dating from1986. The laboratory’s research in APIT-enablingtechnologies was part of a larger effort to developbeneficial uses for radioactive materials remainingfrom weapons production during the Cold War.The transfer itself was fast-tracked duringplanning for initial clinical trials. The effortincluded exclusive licenseagreements for fiveimmunology patents,negotiation and conclusionof a separate technologymanagement agreement withan earlier research partner,and establishment of aCRADA for further research.The transfer was completedin January 2003.The transfer of technologiesfrom PNNL to MedActiniumis a contributing factor in theability of the MemorialSloan-Kettering CancerCenter and other researchmedical centers to continue the quest for effectivecancer treatments. A second round of clinicaltrials is scheduled to begin at Sloan-Kettering infall 2004. According to David A. Scheinberg,M.D., Ph.D, and chairman of the Sloan-KetteringExperimental Therapeutics Center, “You can injectsmall doses of these [APIT] molecules, whichcirculate, find their target cells, invade them, andeventually kill the cells. These are extremelypotent drugs.”
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