Institute of Radiopharmaceutical Cancer Research
The Institute of Radiopharmaceutical Cancer Research is engaged in Radiopharmaceutical Cancer Research. Chemical, biological and physical working groups work together to increase the knowledge in the scopes of Molecular Imaging and Tumor Therapy.
The institute’s activities are focussed on research and development towards radiolabelled compounds for the functional characterisation and therapy of tumors. Furthermore, computational methods for the quantitative characterisation of tumors by molecular imaging are developed. In particular, this includes mainly positron emission tomography and connected multimodal imaging techniques.
Radioactively labelled compounds enable diagnostics, i.e. detection and detailed molecular characterization, of tumors and metastasis by emission of photons from inner body areas. Moreover, compounds that emit high-energetic particles allow for the deposition of a radiation dose selectively at the site of the neoplastic tissues, which is particularly important for the eradication of metastasising tumors. In this regard, contextually relevant research towards the pathogenesis of neoplastic diseases is carried out, which includes the investigation of precancerous and inflammatory processes. Furthermore, the institute contributes to clinical translation of new findings by producing radiopharmaceuticals for clinical research and – to a limited extent – for special diagnostics of patients. These activities are supported by the development of new algorithms for the evaluation of tomographic data.
To this end, radioactively labelled compounds, i.e. radiotracers and radiotherapeutics as radioactive drugs, that specifically bind to neoplastic tissue of various tumors entities are developed. To achieve this goal, the discovery and production of appropriate radionuclides as well as the identification of compounds for specific tumors targeting and the application of radiolabelled substances within in-house and collaborative research projects are important prerequisites. Imaging techniques such as PET, magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) and computed tomography (CT) and their multimodal combinations are applied to characterise these compounds. In order to obtain quantitative data on the disposition and binding of substances from such investigations, the development of computational methods is an integral part of the institute’s research programme. Furthermore, molecular imaging is used for projects beyond tumor research. For example, this includes the characterisation of polymeric biomaterials as prosthetic scaffolds or mechanistic investigations into obesity.
The institute’s current research programme is dealing with the topics of PET and multimodal imaging, radionuclide therapeutics, radiopharmaceutical and chemical biology as well as radioimmunology. Main task of the department of radiopharmaceutical production is the reliable supply of the PET center with radiopharmaceuticals and the operation of the cyclotron for several research projects. An overview of the results of our research can be obtained by looking at the institute’s publication list.
The work of our scientists and technicians is backed by an excellent infrastructure. In the years 2017/18 the institute is occupying a new building, which is called ZRT (Center for Radiopharmaceutical Tumor Research). In addition to replacing the former PET center, this complex will provide a significantly advanced research infrastructure. Simultaneously, a reconstructed laboratory area was taken into operation at the research site Leipzig in 2017. Together with the present and new facilities, these extensions will allow for tackling ambitious research projects, especially with regards to expected future developments in the next years.
In the PET center Dresden-Rossendorf, which is jointly operated by our institute and by the Medical Faculty (Clinic and Policlinic for Nuclear Medicine and Clinic and Policlinic for Radiation Therapy and Radiooncology) and the University Hospital Dresden, respectively, investigations using positron emission tomography are applied to patients and medical research.
The institute is connected to several institutions of the HZDR and TU Dresden/University Hospital via the Collaborative Center for Innovation Competence in Medical Radiation Research in Oncology (OncoRay). Within this center, the institute is contributing its competences in preclinical and medical imaging as well as endoradionuclide therapy to achieve the shared research goals. In a similar manner, the aims of the National Center of Tumor Diseases Dresden (NCT) are supported.
The department of Neuroradiopharmaceuticals at the HZDR research site Leipzig investigates radiopharmaceutical aspects of functional characterisation of brain tumors and their neuropsychiatric consequences.
Young Researcher Programme
A further task of the institute is supporting the education of young academics and technicians. Young scientists, which are mainly represented by master and PhD students) from domestic and foreign universities, have the opportunity to work in modern laboratories towards interdisciplinary topics of application-oriented basic research under the guidance of experienced researchers. Moreover, the scientific staff participates in lecture courses at TU Dresden. The scientists’ knowledge and experiences are passed on to the students within the courses of „Radiopharmacy”, „Bioinorganic Chemistry” and „Pathobiochemistry” as well as „Positron Emission Tomography”.
Two Helmholtz-funded joint research projects are followed at our institute:
- The Helmholtz International Laboratory for Radio-Immuno-Theranostics (MHELTHERA) is a bilateral project between the HZDR and Monash University Melbourne (Australia) that aims to develop a joint platform to improve the treatment of cancer, infectious and heart diseases.
- Within the cross programme initiative “Technology and Medicine – Adaptive Systems” the institute contributes the application of various imaging techniques towards elucidating the behaviour of polymeric biomaterials in the body including the identification of interactions and degradation products.
- Until the end of 2016 the virtual institute "NanoTracking" was dealing with the development of tailor-made nanomaterials for application in tumor diagnostics as well as investigating their specific interactions in vitro and in vivo. These activities are continued within HZDR.