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A new prostate cancer "homing device" could improve detection and allow for the first targeted treatment of the disease. Philip Low, the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry, is leading a team of Purdue researchers who have discovered that a targeted treatment could be much more effective in treating cancer and would greatly reduce the harmful side effects associated with current treatments.

The team synthesized a molecule that finds and penetrates prostate cancer cells and has created imaging agents and therapeutic drugs that can link to the molecule and be carried with it as cargo.

A radioimaging application used for body scans began clinical trials last fall, and an optical imaging application used to measure prostate cancer cells in blood samples is already in clinical trials.

"Currently none of the drugs available to treat prostate cancer are targeted, which means they go everywhere in the body as opposed to only the tumor, and so are quite toxic for the patient," says Low, who is a member of the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research.

"By being able to target only the cancer cells, we could eliminate toxic side effects of treatments. In addition, the ability to target only the cancer cells can greatly improve imaging of the cancer to diagnose the disease and determine if it has spread or is responding to treatment."

Prostate cancer is the second most common cancer, other than skin cancers, and is the second-leading cause of cancer death in American men, according to the American Cancer Society. It is estimated that about 192,280 new cases will be diagnosed and 27,360 men will die of prostate cancer in the United States this year.

The molecule Low’s team created attaches to prostate-specific membrane antigen, or PSMA, a protein that is found on the membrane of more than 90 percent of all prostate cancers. It also is found on the blood vessels of most solid tumors and could provide a way to cut off the tumor blood supply, Low said. — Purdue News (courtesy of Leadership Magazine)

Low

Philip Low (top), the Ralph C. Corley Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry at Purdue, and graduate student Sumith Kularatne examine the uptake of an imaging agent in prostate cancer cells. Low led a research team that designed a molecule to find and penetrate prostate cancer cells.