Our research focus, at the Radiopharmacy Lab at the Dept. of Nuclear Medicine, Inselspital, is the development and preclinical evaluation of nuclear probes (radiotracers, radiopharmaceuticals) with the potential to be used for the in vivo imaging and therapy of primary as well as metastatic tumor lesions.
Radiotracers of interest consist of a radionuclide suitable for either diagnostic or therapeutic applications and a carrier molecule that is specific for a recognition element overexpressed by tumor cells and delivers the desired radionuclide to the area to be examined or treated. The nature of the radionuclide and the carrier molecule as well as the intended application of the derived radiotracer determine the required chemical and biological methods, which needs to be followed for the preparation of the radiopharmaceutical (Fig 1).
In our laboratories, we cover the entire spectrum of the radiopharmaceutical sciences.
In close collaboration with the physicians of the Nuclear Medicine Department we identify promising targets followed by the design of a series of specific ligands (precursors).
For preclinical evaluation, radiolabeling chemistry methods are applied for the preparation of the respective radiotracers followed by their in vitro evaluation (on cancer cells or human tissues) for the determination of their tumor-targeting properties. This usually includes experimental procedures determining, affinity towards a given receptor/antigen, cellular uptake and other parameters such as hydrophilicity, metabolic stability, plasma protein binding, cell internalization, fate of the radiotracer. Finally, the most promising candidates are subjected to in vivo studies in tumor bearing mice. Biodistribution studies and / or small animal imaging by µPET/SPECT/CT (Fig 2) are carried out in order to determine their pharmacokinetic and dynamic properties.