Feb 152010
Authors: Abel Oshevire

In order to bring a promising new cancer treatment to the U.S., CSU has partnered with two Japanese-based groups to carry out research on a new form of radiation therapy.

Unlike chemotherapy and photon therapy –– two common cancer treatments ––, carbon ion therapy is a fairly new discovery and is already being used in countries including Japan and Germany to treat cancer tumors, said Jac Nickoloff, one of CSU’s carbon ion therapy researchers and head of the university’s Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences.

Both carbon ion therapy and photon therapy are forms of radiation therapy. Radiation therapy works by beaming energy directly or indirectly on cancer tumors, damaging the cancerous DNA cell. Photon therapy deposits energy in tissues as it moves toward cancer cells, damaging healthy tissues in addition to cancerous ones.

“This is one of the biggest advantages of carbon ion therapy, as it doesn’t deposit energy until reaching the target cell,” Nickoloff said. “Carbon ion therapy is currently being used for treatment in Japan and has shown very impressive results.”

Carbon ion therapy is not yet available anywhere in the U.S., and though Nickoloff said treatment with carbon ion therapy would be expensive when available, it treats some malicious cancers that other cancer treatments can’t.

“Carbon ion therapy is the only known treatment for chordoma and melanoma (the most lethal form of skin cancer),” Nickoloff said. “Melanoma cells are highly resistant to photon therapy.”

CSU will be working with Gifu University School of Medicine and the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Japan to carry out its research and is pushing to get a $15 million grant from the National Cancer Institute, something Nickoloff said the research team is confident it will secure.

“We are in the preliminary stages right now, moving toward the research. There are various activities planned including a symposium sometime in May this year to push for approval of funding for the research,” Nickoloff said.

He said research is expected to last for five years with $3 million for each year.

Along with the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, the College of Veterinary Medicine is involved in the research as non-harmful clinical trials will be carried out to treat tumors first in mice, then cats, dogs and also in humans.

William Hanneman, director of the Center for Environmental Medicine in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, said he believes the program, if successful, would represent a major breakthrough in the fight against cancer, especially in the area of pediatric care.

Hanneman said that the partnership will have a big impact on the relationship between Colorado and Japan, as world-class researchers from around the globe are brought together to solve a major health problem.

CSU is hiring a Takamitsu Kato, a CSU alumnus from Japan, who is an expert in toxicology and cancer to participate in the research. He will arrive on campus in April.

Kato did not immediately reply to an e-mail from the Collegian, but Ryuichi Okayasu, Kato’s associate and fellow CSU alumnus, said the university’s world-renown radiation research department makes the university ideal for the research.

Staff writer Abel Oshevire can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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