MSU Researchers Enter Phase I Clinical Trial for Bladder Cancer Treatment

Researchers at Michigan State University in East Lansing are working with Lansing’s Niowave on the first phase of a clinical trial to develop a new treatment for bladder cancer.
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Niowave facility
MSU and Niowave are partnering on a clinical trial to develop a new treatment for bladder cancer. Pictured is Niowave’s facility. // Photo courtesy of Michigan State University

Researchers at Michigan State University in East Lansing are working with Lansing’s Niowave on the first phase of a clinical trial to develop a new treatment for bladder cancer.

The radiotherapy and immunology treatment is aimed to be safe, more effective, and potentially less costly than current options. In making it to the clinical trial phase the treatment has shown enough promise to be evaluated in human patients.

“This is a team effort, and all parts of the team are critical,” says Kurt Zinn, a professor of biomedical engineering, radiology, and small animal clinical sciences who has worked on more than 10 phase I trials. He also has experience working with medical radioisotopes, particles that deliver radiation useful for imaging or, as is the case with this work, treating diseases.

Zinn says the platform could eventually be used to attack numerous cancer types.

To prepare for the trial, the team had to accomplish two goals: finding the right radioisotope and identifying the most appropriate cancer to validate the platform. The radioisotope had to have medically attractive properties and be accessible. Researchers and technicians had to be able to produce it in a way that’s commercially viable and adheres to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s standards.

The team decided to use lead-214, a lead atom with 214 protons and neutrons in its nucleus. Niowave has the technology to supply the radioisotope, and the MSU researchers have a new facility that expands their ability to integrate isotopes into pharmaceutical doses for patients. MSU also operates a radiopharmacy in collaboration with Cardinal Health in Ohio that’s been producing diagnostics based on fluorine isotopes for about a decade.

“There’s a lot of exciting work that’s already being done with other isotopes similar to lead-214,” says Mike Zamiara, president of Niowave. “We’re looking at it and saying maybe we can share some of the success they’ve had with those isotopes, and maybe it’s a better isotope for certain types of cancer.”

The team decided to try the new treatment on bladder cancer. Doctors will administer the lead-214 therapy to patients as a liquid, which is the same state as the immunotherapy already used to treat bladder cancer.

This means that patients in the clinical trial can receive both the standard of care and the new radiotherapy in the same way and at the same time.

On its own, standard immunotherapy works for about two-thirds of patients who receive it. Testing the new radiotherapy will allow researchers to show whether adding radiotherapy can improve outcomes for more patients.

The clinical trial is being funded by the Spectrum Health — MSU Alliance, which was created to support and enhance medical research.

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