NIH opens interventional oncology center for imaging research

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A new Center for Interventional Oncology has opened at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC), dedicated to investigating cancer therapies that use imaging technology to diagnose and treat localized cancers in ways that are precisely targeted and minimally or non-invasive.

The center is a collaboration involving the CC, NIH's clinical research hospital in Bethesda, Md., the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), and is intended to provide a forum for and encourage collaborations among research and patient-care experts in medical, surgical and radiation oncology and interventional radiology.

Bradford Wood, MD, a CC senior investigator and chief of the new center, said that it will help "foster advances in an emerging field for minimally invasive, image-guided methods for treating localized cancers."

The new center's goal is localized treatment and drug delivery by use of imaging technologies, including MRI, PET and CT--combined with the capability to use all three technologies simultaneously to navigate a therapeutic device through the body.

The localized therapies use a thin needle or sound waves to ablate tumors and to enhance drug delivery. Energy sources include high-intensity focused ultrasound, freezing, microwaves and radiofrequency, Wood said.

Researchers will also expand investigations into electroporation--the use of electricity to make cells more open to targeted drug delivery. Image-guided drug delivery will be developed, which will allow combining use of nanoparticles, ablative devices and advanced imaging and navigation.

Educational and training opportunities are part of the program. Major program components will include:
• Interdisciplinary training and education in interventional oncology
• Development of new image-guided for methods for personalized drug investigations
• Image-guided dose-painting--tailoring drug delivery based on disease location
• Use of ‘medical GPS'--a system by which small micro coils are built onto invasive devices (like needles or catheters or cameras) and inserted into a patient to define, target, and track the position of tumors during thermal ablation (cooking tumors with needles)--for tumor biopsy and treatment
• First-in-human investigations involving new drugs, devices, molecular probes, nanoparticles, and targeted therapies
• Interdisciplinary research involving novel technologies in interventional oncology.

David Bluemke, MD, PhD, director of Clinical Center Radiology and Imaging Sciences, will head the Center for Interventional Oncology steering committee that comprises two NCI appointees and one each from NHLBI and the CC.