A partnership between Colorado State University and Japan is expected to pave the way for new cancer treatments for naturally occurring tumors in larger animals such as cats and dogs as well as in humans.
The university will focus on carbon ion therapy for the treatment of multiple cancers and look at medicinal chemistry therapy¬–the use of naturally occurring chemicals such as antioxidants–as a way to boost the effectiveness of carbon ion therapy.
“This partnership also allows us to create an international open laboratory that will be a platform for other U.S. researchers with expertise in cancer and toxicology to connect with the knowledge and resources available in Japan, the world leader in this new field of research,” said Jac Nickoloff, head of CSU’s Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences.
A trilogy of cancer expertise from College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences is involved: Animal Cancer Center, the newly launched international Center for Environmental Medicine and the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences. The Center for Environmental Medicine, which will house the new research program, launched in 2008 at CSU in partnership with Japan during a trade mission trip.
Counterparts in Japan are Gifu University School of Medicine and the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, called NIRS, in Chiba, which is Japan’s equivalent of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. NIRS is home to HIMAC, a heavy ion medical accelerator, in Chiba–one of three heavy ion medical accelerators operating worldwide.
HIMAC uses high-energy carbon ions to zap tumors and has notable successes, but the science behind how it works remains a mystery. There are no heavy ion accelerators for medical use in the U.S., nor are any being planned, according to CSU.
In Japan, 5,000 patients have received treatment using experimental HIMAC therapy. CSU, NIRS and Gifu University will partner on research into heavy ion radiotherapy and are expected to embark on clinical trials involving cats, dogs and humans.
Carbon ion therapy works similar to traditional radiation therapy that uses photons, in that a cancerous tumor is targeted to destroy cancer cells and tumors. Carbon ions, however, are larger than photons and their size allows them to create irreparable damage when they hit a cancer cell.
Another benefit: unlike traditional radiation therapies, carbon ion treatments do not damage healthy cells in the path to the tumor. Scientists control the depth in the body that the ions penetrate and tailor the “shape” of the energy deposited by the carbon ions to closely match the tumor shape.
Once the ions reach the tumor, the energy is delivered in a narrow zone, almost like an explosion within the tumor. The treatment provides doctors with options when targeting tumors near sensitive structures such as the brain.