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Researchers developing new kit for radiotracers receive EPSRC grant

They will simplify the production procedure and ensure rapid translation of underused radioisotopes that can be more beneficial for diagnosis of different diseases

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Dr Graeme Stasiuk from the School of Biomedical Engineering & Imaging Sciences in collaboration with researchers from The University of Hull, has received an EPSRC grant of £534,369 to investigate the development of new radiotracers for Positron Emission Tomography (PET) to simplify the production procedure and ensure rapid translation of underused radioisotopes that can be more beneficial for diagnosis of different diseases.

Dr Stasiuk is looking at the radioisotopes Gallium-68 and Scandium-44, which are particular isotopes that are used in medical imaging for PET.

Gallium 68 is now coming into the clinical forefront as it is easier to produce since it’s produced from a generator.

But a lot of work needs to be done to get the metal isotopes into a patient – radiopharmacists have to do quite a bit of chemistry to take it from the generator to create a radiotracer which can then be given to the patient.

"The aim of this grant is to take the isotopes directly from the generator, put it with our chemical that we are making and have available a kind of kit with which the clinician can inject the radiotracer into the patient,” Dr Stasiuk said.

“We’re going to make these chemicals that will be in a kit that you would add your radioisotope to and you would shake it up together, to produce the radiotracer,” he said.

The main patient benefit is that as clinicians will have access to a greater number of radiotracers, it will mean that these radiotracers can be used on different types of diseases.– Dr Graeme Stasiuk

Investigating the use of these isotopes is opening up the toolbox for the clinicians to look at the short and medium term-scanning.

Using scandium-44 in the radiotracer means a patient can be scanned a day or two after the isotope has been given to the patient. It allows the isotope more time to circulate around the body and look at the specifics of the disease it is tracking.

“We are using this acyclic system that is modular. It allows us to tune our properties of our radiotracer for the biological condition that we’re looking at,” Dr Stasiuk said.

“We can tune how long it will stay in the body, how effective it is at targeting a specific protein on the surface of the cancer, how it would interact with other organs, whether it would go strongly to the liver or not, and that is the unique approach.”

Dr Stasiuk said the team has a unique modular system so they can change the chemical properties of the tracer which means its biological properties are tuned for more accurate disease.