A New Approach to Treating Ovarian Cancer


Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cause of cancer deaths for women in the U.S. Now, CUNY researchers are working on a new imaging agent for ovarian cancer and for a type of targeted therapy called theranostics.

In a study published in Molecules, the authors describe how they produced the imaging agent and tested its efficacy in mice. Postdoctoral fellow Outi Keinänen, Ph.D. graduate Kimberly Fung, previous postdoctoral fellow Delphine Vivier, and Professor Brian Zeglis (Hunter College, The Graduate Center) were authors on the paper.

In ovarian cancer as well as breast and pancreatic cancers, a protein called Mucin 1, or MUC1, is overexpressed. This means it appears on the outside of tumor cells more often than it appears on normal cells. The MUC1 protein on tumor cells also has some slight chemical differences from the protein on healthy cells, making it a useful target for imaging or therapeutic purposes.

The researchers produced an agent that could be used for immunoPET imaging. ImmunoPET uses a combination of antibodies—important defenders in the immune system—and radioactive tracers. In this case the researchers chose the mouse antibody AR20.5, which is naturally good at binding to the MUC1 proteins on tumor cells. By attaching the radionuclide Zirconium-89 to the antibody via a linker molecule, the researchers created something that would bind to tumor cells and light up cancerous areas on a scan.

Experiments on using the agent to image ovarian cancer in mouse models showed good results. The authors say there is room for improvement, though, and they plan to keep tweaking and testing it with the hopes that it can one day be used to map out cancerous tissues in humans.

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Brian Zeglis (Associate Professor, Chemistry) | Profile 1 | Profile 2