Advances in imaging may help in fight against cancer

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

By: Scott Larson


Being able to detect the fingerprints of cancer and heart disease early will lead to more effective, cost efficient treatments, says Ron Geyer.

Geyer, a professor of Pathology in the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan and also the director of the Saskatchewan Therapeutic Antibody Resource (STAR), along with his research colleagues, is receiving $2.2 million in federal funding to help develop new peptides and antibodies to identify diseases, and develop a new mechanism to attach radioactive isotopes to these markers for medical imaging.

“Imaging’s goal is to detect disease in the body in a non-invasive manner,” Geyer said.

The researchers will develop engineered antibodies and peptides that target molecular disease ‘fingerprints’ to identify and localize disease tissues.

These molecules, which can be tailored to detect specific types of cancer, are attached to specialty medical isotopes produced at the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences at the U of S. This will produce new medical imaging agents that can result in early detection, diagnosis and treatment of diseases.

“The new technologies expected to result from it could greatly advance molecular imaging and aid in characterizing disease biomarkers, developing drugs, diagnosing disease and tracking the efficacy of pharmaceuticals during therapy,” said Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, in making the funding announcement Friday at the new Health Sciences Building.

Geyer said the technology could potentially mean a patient arriving for tests in the morning could leave a couple of hours later knowing if they have a specific type of cancer or not.

By looking at multiple markers, the research will also allow for treatment to be customized for every patient’s specific needs.

“One cancer patient might have a slightly different marker set than another, and those may implicate treatment,” Geyer said.

The initial research will focus on diagnosis and treatment of patients with breast cancer or heart disease (atherosclerosis), although the findings may be applied to other types of cancer as well.

Cancer and cardiovascular disease are the top two causes of death in Canada — 72,000 die from cancer and 61,000 die from heart and stroke disease each year in Canada.