Technetium crunch resurfaces as COVID-19 roils the globe

The story of shortages of technetium-99 (Tc-99) has a considerable history behind it. However, that story is likely to be told for a while longer thanks in part to the SARS-CoV-2 pathogen. Nuclear Medicine Europe, the Brussels-based trade association for EU nuclear medicine, said in a March 30 statement that travel delays have held up shipments of the molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) precursor from South Africa. One source of relief may be that Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organization (ANSTO) has received regulatory approval from Australian authorities to resume production of Mo-99 for export. However, ANSTO has indicated that its ability to ramp up production is limited. The two runs per week currently scheduled will be sustained, but the need to protect workers will hamper efforts to boost production further. Other sources of relief are strictly long-term in nature, such as the plans in place by Coqui Radiopharmaceuticals Corp., of Oak Ridge, Tenn. The company intends to develop a pair of 10-megawatt open-pool nuclear reactors in nearby Duct Island, although this source of Tc-99 will not be producing medical-grade isotopes until 2025, according to the company’s April 2019 statement.

Microbiome changes precede tumor development in CRC

Researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Massachusetts General Hospital have analyzed the fecal and mucosal microbiome of individuals with Lynch syndrome, and they used their findings to identify microbiome members that could play a causal role in the development of colorectal cancer (CRC). Microbiome composition is altered in CRC patients. However, defining whether the microbiome alters cancer risk or cancer alters the microbiome has proven challenging. Lynch syndrome is a hereditary syndrome that puts individuals at very high risk of developing CRC, and accounts for about one in 30 CRC cases overall. The team looked at the microbiome in Lynch syndrome patients prior to and after the development of CRC and identified several microbiome changes that preceded tumor development. However, such changes only weakly were predictive of how long it would take patients to develop precancerous adenomas. The authors concluded that their work “suggests that the effectiveness of prospective microbiome monitoring for adenomas may be limited but supports the potential causality of these consistent, early microbial changes in colonic neoplasia.” They reported their findings in the April 1, 2020, issue of Cell Host & Microbe.

Il-27 proposed as target in prostate cancer

Researchers at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., have been working on novel treatments for prostate cancer for a while. Now, recent work has pointed to interleukin-27 (Il-27) as a cytokine that could be of help, assuming it is modified at the C-terminus with a dual-purpose heptapeptide. Il-27 has demonstrated some utility in suspending tumor growth in several other tumors and has been shown to mediate tumor regression as well, but a novel delivery method was needed. The Purdue team responded to this need with a novel method of sonodelivery, which they had refined with the use of plasmid DNA with a novel cationic polymer dubbed rNLSd. The sonoporation has been shown to promote protein expression in vivo, but the Purdue team added microbubbles to the process – a move that appears to promote both paracrine and autocrine processes. Purdue’s Marxa Figueiredo said, “one of the best features of this technology is that it shows great promise in enabling treatment for many other cancers and diseases that could benefit from halting tumor growth and promoting bone repair.” Figueiredo said that this process also could be used to promote bone and tissue repair when those tissues have been damaged by tumors. These findings are presented in press in Molecular Therapy; Methods and Clinical Development.

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