PSI Leads New Research To Fight Metastatic Prostate Cancer

Researchers at the Paul Scherrer Institute (ENS Corporate Member, PSI) are developing a new drug that could increase the survival chances of patients with metastatic prostate cancer.

The drug, studied by a research consortium involving PSI, the University Hospital Basel and ETH Zurich, is now being tested on patients in the PROGNOSTICS (PeRsOnalised theraGNOstics of metaStaTIC proState cancer) project. The clinical trial starts in 2024 and will run until the end of 2025.

In this project, the partners are now testing a drug that uses the isotope Terbium-161, the therapeutic uses of which has been studied by PSI researcher for around 10 years now.

This isotope has the property that when the radioisotope decays, it immediately emits an average of two low-energy Auger electrons per beta particle. Due to their low energies, those electrons do not travel far, just a few micrometres.

That means a higher dose can accumulate – very locally near the cancer cell – per injection. In theory, a higher local dose translates into a higher therapeutic effect, sparing healthy tissue in the process. The tumour cell is then damaged, no longer able to divide and eventually dies, preventing the formation of metastases.

The research consortium has also identified a possible reason why the radiopharmaceuticals currently used to treat prostate cancer do not work in a third of patients. The electrons emitted during radioactive decay deliver too small a dose to the smallest metastases or individual tumour cells so that these are able to survive.

Read the full PSI Story.

Several projects are currently focusing on this promising radioisotope.

In June, SCK CEN (ENS Corporate Member) and TerThera signed an agreement to handle together the production process of Terbium-161.

Last March, TerThera signed also an agreement with NRG (ENS Corporate Member) for irradiation services in the High Flux Reactor in Petten, to produce Terbium-161.

Medical isotopes benefit thousands of patients every day in current clinical practice and have great potential for future clinical challenges.

This year, ENS, together with Euratom Supply Agency (ENS Member), organised the event Beating Cancer – turning the tide with medical isotopes, which gave us the opportunity to learn more about those amazing developments and to discuss the challenges ahead.

You can find its recording and all materials in our Special Newsletter.