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Molecular technology for nuclear imaging and radionuclide therapy

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Researchers trained to combat cancer

Cancer constitutes the second biggest cause of death in Europe. Coupled with the fact that cancer incidence is expected to rise, these dismal statistics emphasise the need for improved diagnostic tools, therapeutic strategies as well as young scientists educated in fields related to cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment.

Fundamental Research

The EU-funded TRACENTREAT project brought together a number of leading European institutes and industrial partners under a single collaborative network to train the next generation of researchers. The aim was to ensure that they get the skills necessary to become highly-qualified in nuclear imaging techniques and therapeutic methods against cancer. Young researchers were given a broad insight into molecular imaging with specialisation in single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) or positron emission tomography (PET), and radionuclide therapy. SPECT and PET are nuclear imaging approaches that are characterised by very good detection sensitivity at high temporal and spatial resolution. However, these techniques require radiolabelling of the probes, a process that requires extensive optimisation and expert skills. The fellows were trained by specialists and research leaders in the required fields including the private sector. Secondments, workshops and regular meetings were an important part of the training to achieve the goals that had been set. Besides the research training, the young researchers acquired soft skills such as product development and marketing. The young scientists researched different types of carriers based on commonly used polymers. They produced three radionuclides suitable for molecular imaging and radionuclide therapy, incorporated them in newly designed molecular and supramolecular carriers and finally, performed pre-clinical evaluation. Important highlights reflecting the high standard of training were that two of the researchers won awards. One was for the PhD thesis, ‘Development of copolymer nano-carriers for imaging and therapy’. A publication ‘Ultra-High-Sensitivity Submillimeter Mouse SPECT’ resulted in the other award. Furthermore, a paper in collaboration between three consortium partners became the cover of Biomaterials Science. High on the agenda, media and dissemination saw the involvement of the fellows in outreach workshops, spreading YouTube videos and contributing to many Wiki articles related to the TRACEnTREAT project. A long list of scientific publications, most of which have involvement of at least three of the project partners also bears testament to the success of the initiative. When given the support of the right network, success in multidisciplinary research is possible in areas that demand this level of excellence such as complex diseases like cancer.

Keywords

TRACEnTREAT, cancer, molecular imaging, young researchers, SPECT, PET

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