The most common and aggressive form of pancreatic cancer, the ductal adenocarcinoma, is a disease with a very low average life expectation after diagnosis. Because patients often experience no symptoms during most of the time it develops, it is usually discovered at a time when in can not be cured anymore. Also, there are less effective treatment options available than for other cancers, and this situation has not really improved during the last 40 years.
The detection of pancreatic adenocarcinoma is still challenging, as is its therapy.
We will exploit a cellular biomarker called αvβ6-integrin, which is found in high density on most pancreatic carcinoma cells , for sensitive localization of the nodules. Our TRAP-based experimental radiopharmaceutical TRIVEHEXIN can track down pancreatic carcinoma by binding specifically even to small amounts of this biomarker. Thereafter, their position can be determined by highly sensitive detecting systems, such as positron emission tomography (PET)scanners, facilitating the localization even of small tumors anywhere in the body. The information obtained with Ga-68-Trivehexin PET should help surgeons and oncologists to optimize their treatment, ideally facilitating complete surgical removal, or a better monitoring of the response to a chemotherapy.
Our future vision is to exploit the same mechanism for homing radioactive isotopes directly into the cancer, and to cure it by radiation from within.
 Steiger et al., Molecular Imaging 2017;16:1536012117709384. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1536012117709384