Brussels, 04 Oct 2004
Today, during a media briefing held at the VU Medisch Centrum, Amsterdam, the European Commission's Directorate-General Joint Research Centre (JRC) announced that an innovative treatment, known as Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT), was applied for the first time in Europe as a prospective cure in a clinical stage II trial to a patient suffering from brain metastases induced by a specific type of skin cancer. The treatment was performed at the High Flux Reactor (HFR) at the JRC's Institute for Energy (IE), Petten, The Netherlands. Conventional treatment is generally not efficient to treat multiple tumours and can
harm healthy tissue. BNCT has the potential to selectively kill tumour cells embedded in normal tissue. This new stage in applying BNCT follows clinical stage I trials which were performed to define safety limits and dosage. BNCT research offers exciting possibilities to develop novel cancer treatments that prolong the lives of patients with advanced brain tumours.
A new phase II study is now concentrating on treating patients with brain metastases of melanoma. Wider potential applications are being studied within a research partnership involving university hospitals in France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands and the USA. Recent developments include the addition of a treatment planning unit in Hungary (Kaposvar) and a boron compound manufacturer in the Czech Republic. A number of small reactors in countries such as Bulgaria, Poland and Slovenia have also expressed an interest to join the programme.
What is so new about the research?
Boron Neutron Capture Therapy is a tumour-targeting form of radiotherapy under development, which can currently only be performed at nuclear research reactors, such as the High Flux Reactor in Petten. BNCT is based on the ability of the Boron isotope 10 B to react with a neutron beam to produce two highly energetic particles. When produced selectively in tumour cells, the particles destroy the cancer cells, whilst sparing the surrounding healthy tissue, providing an innovative means to treat cancer.
Who is involved?
A successful joint effort to evaluate BNCT in patients suffering from glioblastoma, the most aggressive of the primary brain tumours, was launched at the Institute for Energy, Petten, in 1997. The goal was to demonstrate the safety of this treatment and determine the tolerance dose for healthy tissue, improving patient comfort and safety. Trials on glioblastoma and malignant skin cancer have involved over 200 patients worldwide. The medical tasks and clinical leadership are coordinated by the University Hospital in Essen. The Institute for Energy, Petten; the German University of Duisburg-Essen; the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC); the Dutch Nuclear Research and consultancy Group (NRG); and the Hungarian University of Kaposvar are amongst the main partners in this research project.
Working together to develop diagnostic and therapeutic tools
In addition to BNCT, the media briefing provided the latest insights into a range of JRC and partner organisation cancer research projects. These included:
- Alpha-immunotherapy - radioactive 'bullets' attacking cancer at its source
- Genomics & kidney cancer
- Animal testing in carcinogenicity testing
- Early diagnosis with fluorescence endoscope
Researchers are analysing the first results of the treatment of a patient with brain metastases of melanoma. Other patients are expected to undergo treatment at the High Flux Reactor in 2004/5.
Aidan Gilligan, European Commission, DG JRC, GSM +32 (0)498111078; Office:
+32 (0)2 2986482; Fax: +32 (0)2 2996322; E-mail: email@example.com