Dartmouth and Harvard researchers have been working on advances in photodynamic therapy for the past decade, and a program project grant to advance molecular strategies to enhance this with image guidance has been funded by the National Cancer Institute. This multidisciplinary grant aims to improve the treatment outcomes for two important groups of cancers – pancreatic cancer and non-melanoma skin cancer – by using new combination treatment regimens that incorporate photodynamic therapy (PDT) with novel imaging technologies.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal cancers, typically presenting as locally advanced and metastatic disease, with very poor prognosis. Non-melanoma skin carcinomas, including squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, are the most prevalent of human cancers and are clinically significant due to the sheer number of skin lesions. Through this Program we will use PDT to induce potent local effects and will combine it with small molecules and advanced nanoconstructs that maximize delivery, sensitize the tumor to PDT response, and have the potential to reduce metastasis.
The Program will measurably improve several clinical outcomes: reduced mortality for pancreatic cancer and squamous cell carcinoma; reduced morbidity; and reductions in overall healthcare costs. In addition, the Program will make some fundamental mechanistic discoveries. We will achieve our program goals through leveraging prior Phase I clinical studies, new tools to accelerate clinical translation, and industry collaborations, in order to move novel PDT combinations into the clinic.
Optics in Medicine faculty & students have developed a new method of determining cancer stage and spread that is safer and potentially more accurate than conventional lymph node biopsy. The full technical report is published in the latest issue of Nature Medicine.
The report states, “Lymph node biopsy is employed in many cancer surgeries to identify metastatic disease and to determine cancer stage, yet morbidity and diagnostic delays associated with lymph node biopsy could be avoided if noninvasive imaging of nodal involvement were reliable.” This presents a new and improved method of noninvasive molecular imaging using a “dual-tracer” technique that corrects the problem of nonspecific uptake of imaging tracers that has made previous attempts at this approach clinically ineffective.
“This work summarizes the development of an imaging method that will allow oncologists to noninvasively detect microscopic levels of cancer spread to the lymphatic system in their patients,” says lead author Kenneth Tichauer, engineering professor at Illinois Institute of Technology and former Thayer School post-doc. “Cancer spread [metastasis] is the principal cause of mortality for cancer sufferers, and in an effort to characterize the metastatic potential of a patient’s disease, surgeons often remove tumor draining lymph nodes for analysis during surgical resection of the primary tumor. Such procedures can result in significant morbidity, yet the majority of lymph nodes are found to be free of cancer spread.” – See more at: Lymph Node Cancer Detection.
Robert Holt of the Department of Physics and Astronomy was awarded the Hannah Croasdale Award for 2014 at graduation! This award is given to the graduating PhD recipient from Dartmouth who best exemplifies the qualities of a scholar, supporting themselves and others around them. (see full story at the Graduate Forum)
Stephen Kanick has received a 5-year NIH Mentored Quantitative Research Career Development Award (K25) to support work with mentors Jack Hoopes, Brian Pogue, and Eunice Chen. The K25 awards provide support and a period of supervised study and research for professionals with quantitative (e.g., mathematics, statistics, economics, computer science, imaging science, informatics, physics, chemistry) and engineering backgrounds to integrate their expertise with NIH-relevant research.
Kanick received his Ph.D from the University of Pittsburgh, and spent 3 and a half years as a Post-doctoral researcher at the Erasmus Medical Center in The Netherlands before coming to the Thayer School in 2010 as a research scientist. He is now an Assistant Professor of Engineering Science at Thayer.
Surgery is the cornerstone of oncology treatment, and molecularly-targeted fluorescent imaging agents have the potential to guide surgical resection by highlighting the biological margins of the disease. However, development and testing of such molecular imaging agents has been lacking. Thayer School of Engineering and Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth together with LI-COR Biosciences and Affibody AB announce a new Academic/Industry Partnership to establish an efficient pipeline for development and translation of molecularly-targeted agents. The five-year project is funded by the National Cancer Institute.
This groundbreaking study will use a cost-effective, risk-diluted approach for rapid development and testing of molecularly-targeted imaging agents in phase 0 microdosing studies. The microdosing studies are designed to evaluate imaging of specific targets.
Jonathan Elliott, Ph.D. is a recent recipient of a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Fellowship award to work at Dartmouth on methods for imaging of surgical specimens for residual cancer. This competitive award from the Canadian government funds his work at Dartmouth, leveraging the medical imaging systems and physician researchers working on breast surgical imaging. His focus in this project involves breast lumpectomy tissue imaging ex vivo, and designing an optimal imaging system and approach for maximizing sensitivity to the micromorphologic contrast which can be present.