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ACS News Service Weekly PressPac: April 20, 2022

Tumor-targeting radioconjugate drugs could change cancer care

“Targeted radioactive drugs raise hopes for treating cancer”
Chemical & Engineering News

  Many current cancer treatments make patients very sick because even the most targeted treatments kill healthy cells as well as cancer cells. But a new type of treatment called a radioconjugate is getting the attention of oncologists. This type of drug combines radiation with a tumor-targeting agent and could change the future of cancer care, according to a cover story in Chemical & Engineering News, an independent news outlet of the American Chemical Society.

Radioconjugates work by delivering a cancer-killing radioactive isotope combined with a targeting agent that seeks cancer cells, writes Associate Editor Leigh Krietsch Boerner. The conjugate consists of four parts: a radioactive isotope, a targeting compound, a protective basket to hold on to the isotope and a linker to hold all the parts together. However, developing these drugs poses several challenges. The components must be designed to work together to target the tumor and not damage other parts of the body. Selecting the right radioisotope is also key; companies currently have their sights on two types of isotopes, α emitters and β emitters, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. A limited supply of the necessary radioactive components can also pose issues, since these isotopes can only be sourced from generators, cyclotrons, nuclear reactors or old radioactive waste.

While there is still a need for continued work to develop these drugs, experts say the use of radioconjugates for cancer treatment is promising. Two radioconjugate drugs, Lutathera and Pluvicto, are already approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Small biotech firms are quickly popping up to study and develop radioconjugates. Big companies, such as AstraZeneca, Bayer and Novartis, are also joining in on the effort to design these drugs, on their own or by partnering with some of the smaller companies. The increased interest in research and development and a growing supply of isotopes after years of a short supply sets the field of radioconjugates on a path of rapid growth, positioning this type of therapy as a hopeful part of the future of cancer treatment.

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