UC scientists develop innovative tool to fight cancer

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A team of scientists from the University of Coimbra (UC) is developing an innovative theranostic tool – a technique that combines diagnosis and therapy – aimed at pulmonary micrometastases in osteosarcoma, a very aggressive bone tumor that particularly affects children and adolescents.

Osteosarcoma is a type of cancer that is highly prone to pulmonary metastasis, and it is believed that most patients already have micrometastases at the time of clinical diagnosis, which then progress to pulmonary metastases, which is their main cause of death. the fact that conventional therapies have limited efficacy.

For this reason, “an earlier diagnosis and new therapeutic strategies capable of eliminating these small lesions and halting their progression are urgent”, says Célia Gomes, from the Institute of Clinical and Biomedical Research of Coimbra (iCBR), from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Coimbra (FMUC), who leads the study, in partnership with Antero Abrunhosa, from the Institute of Nuclear Sciences Applied to Health (ICNAS).

The project, recently distinguished by the Portuguese League Against Cancer (LPCC) and Lions Portugal, now has 250,000 euros of funding from the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), and focuses on an approach that takes advantage of current knowledge on the role of exosomes in the formation of metastases and advances in radionuclide-based imaging and therapeutic technologies (used in nuclear medicine) that have proven to be quite effective in the treatment of oncological diseases.

Easily isolated from biological samples (eg blood or urine) and manipulated in terms of their membrane content and composition, exosomes can be administered in an organism as molecule delivery vehicles (eg therapeutic agents) to target organs. This functionality gives them a high diagnostic and therapeutic potential.

In this sense, the team intends to use “exosomes derived from metastatic cells, and ‘mark themwith a positron-emitting radioactive metal (copper-64, 64Cu) for diagnosing micrometastases by positron emission tomography (PET) in an animal model in mouse. For this, a high-sensitivity PET scanner developed at ICNAS will be used”.

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