Medicine, Materials, Energy and Environment
From left to right: Eric Price, Andrew Freywald, and Franco Vizeacoumar. (Photo credit: Daniel Hallen)

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U of S researchers target the most aggressive of breast cancers

SASKATOON - “Unfortunately, a lot of patients with triple negative breast cancer die relatively fast,” said University of Saskatchewan cancer researcher Andrew Freywald, who has been awarded $558,452 by the Canadian Institutes for Health Research to find methods to target TNBC directly and improve patient survival.

Freywald, who has established an experimental system that uses mouse models to ascertain the initiation and growth of cancerous tumours, is collaborating on the research with Franco Vizeacoumar, clinical assistant professor in the U of S College of Medicine and research scientist at the Saskatchewan Cancer Agency, and Eric Price, assistant professor in chemistry and Canada Research Chair in Radiochemistry.

The aim is to develop new, personalized therapies to target and eliminate triple negative breast cancer.

As the nuclear imaging specialist, Price is developing novel methods that will identify patients whose cancers are of the correct type and whose tumours are accessible to therapy that includes the anti-cell surface receptor drug.

With support of the specialized laboratories of the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences, operated by the Fedoruk Centre at the U of S, Price has produced a new type of chelator — a molecule that binds strongly to a radioactive metal and attaches it to an antibody, which can then be injected into a patient to seek out and “light up” diseased tissue.

Price’s new chelator is far superior to the chelator used currently for Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging in local hospitals.

“In the PET image, you are precisely tracking the radioactivity,” Price said. “You get good data from it and you can see the whole patient. It effectively makes the person transparent.”

The PET imaging process, which is non-invasive, yields a 3-D image of the exact locations and sizes of cancer tumours, where the antibodies and their radioactive passengers stick. The brightness of the tumour images will quantify the presence of targets for subsequent antibody-based therapies.

“This is the whole idea of personalized medicine,” said Price.

Read the full article by SARATH PEIRIS here