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Development of a radioactive marker to identify small and aggressive cancerous tumors

A marker developed in a new Israeli study of Bar In University and implemented by the start-up company Isotopia Not only will it be determined whether it is a malignant or benign tumor, but it will also be determined how aggressive it is, and all of this will be done in one image and avoid a biopsy

Medical imaging. Photo:
Medical imaging. Photo:

Use of PET-CT and PET-MRI scanners is increasing in Israel and worldwide, the global market value is estimated today at 1.01 billion dollars in 2019 and is expected to increase at an annual rate of 4.7% to 1.4 billion dollars in 2026.

The use of PET-CT/MRI imaging improves the quality of the imaging, helps the doctor assess the extent of the disease, diagnose different forms of cancer, determine if the treatment is working, and identify if there are recurring tumors.

The development of new products and increased investments in R&D by many companies continue to contribute to the growth and revenues of the market.

The main drivers expected to drive this market are increasing prevalence of chronic diseases worldwide and increasing penetration of PET imaging machines, as well as increasing demand for effective diagnostic techniques of diseases worldwide and expanding applications for PET in the field of oncology which are further expected to increase the growth of the imaging method .

A new Israeli study is currently being carried out by a company isotopy led by Prof. Sharon Rothstein, from the Department of Chemistry, Bar-Ilan University, is trying to develop a radioactive marker for hypoxia (a phenomenon of lack of oxygen in cells) based on the isotope Cupper 64 - detection of oxygen-deprived cells. Studies have shown that the concentration of oxygen in the cell is directly related to the aggressiveness of the cancerous tumor. With the radiotracer (radioactive marker) for hypoxia, not only will it be determined whether it is more malignant or benign, but it will also be determined how aggressive it is, and all this will be done in one image and avoid a biopsy. Today there are no competing products that diagnose this biomarker.

It has been known for over a decade that cancer cells are hypoxic. The lack of oxygen makes cancer cells much more aggressive. Quantifying the oxygen concentration in cancer cells is necessary in order to characterize how aggressive the tumor is and in order to adapt the treatment to the patient in a better way. To this day, there is no radiotracer that allows the tracking of oxygen-deprived cells. There are several reasons for this: the first is that a radiotracer that is developed to monitor the amount of oxygen has to go through an oxidation-reduction process, so both the chemical process and its biological mechanism must be well understood. Most of the radiotracers that have been developed take a long time to go through the redox processes and during this time they

are already emitted outside the cell and therefore the signal from the hypoxic cell is very small and at the limit of noise and cannot be measured. In addition, most of the radioteasers that have been developed are absorbed by the cell passively - which significantly lowers their signal.

In the lab of Prof. Rothstein They developed a copper-based radiotracer that integrates into the copper ion mechanism inside the cell. That is: it is actively integrated into the cycle of copper ions and is therefore largely absorbed by the cell. The laboratory characterized the mechanism of radiotracer activity in hypoxic and normoxic cells. Since the development was done by a clear understanding of the chemical and biological mechanism, the chance that this radiotracer will pass the clinic is extremely high.

Hypoxia is found not only in cancerous growths but also in blood vessel blockage (stroke), amyloid aggregates (neurological diseases). Therefore, developing a biomarker for hypoxia is necessary. Our product will also provide an answer for the detection and quantification of cancerous tumors as well as for the characterization of neurological diseases and strokes." say senior officials of the Isotopia company

The research is carried out within the framework of the "Magneton" program of the "Innovation Authority", (formerly the "Scientist's Office") which funds the research with the aim of encouraging the transfer of technological knowledge accumulated in academia for use in industry by creating collaborations between an Israeli company and an academic research group for the development of groundbreaking products. Fundraising for the "Magneton" (for Bar Ilan University) was done by the company "Birad - Research and Development Company Ltd.

Keren Moshkowitz, the company's business development manager"In recent years, Isotopia has invested many resources in locating innovative technologies and in collaborations with universities in Israel and around the world in order to help them reach clinical studies. Today's knowledge of isotopes, the accessibility of the various isotopes and the appropriate professionals constitute fertile ground for supporting the development of the following radiopharmaceuticals. Today, we see in the world an increasing development of transgnostic developments that enable diagnostics and therapy in a target-oriented integrated model for the treatment of various types of cancer. Isotopia is a partner in development processes in Israel and abroad in the field of transgnostics. The company recently purchased a pharmaceutical factory and today can even offer commercial production."

Prof. Rothstein  She points out, "Since 1998, they have been trying to develop a biomarker for hypoxia and to date have not succeeded. The problem lies in the fact that in order to develop a biomarker for hypoxia, one must understand the biological mechanism that the radiotracer integrates into, as well as the chemical mechanism and redox oxidation process. Therefore, only a multidisciplinary group, which has both the biological and chemical capabilities as well as the biophysical methods to understand this complex process, can develop an effective biomarker. Since there are not many groups that have our capabilities and the knowledge we have gained about the copper ion cycle in cells in recent years, we are in a position where we have no competitors and probably will not have competitors in the near future for the development of this product."

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