Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Scientists Award

Georgia Research Alliance (PI: Fei)  

In this study, Dr. Fei will continue to develop molecular imaging-guided photodynamic therapy (PDT) of cancers. PDT is increasingly being recognized as an attractive, alternative treatment that is currently in worldwide multi-center clinical trials for treating various cancers including prostate, bladder, skin, head & neck, esophageal, Barrett’s esophagus, pituitary, endobronchial cancers, and other cancers. PDT requires a photosensitizing drug, light of a specific wavelength, and oxygen. Upon absorption of a photon, the drug generates toxic singlet oxygen species that react with nearby lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. The primary role of PDT is to kill cancer cells by introducing apoptosis or necrosis. PDT-treated tumors often have a rapid response and a single treatment session can be sufficient to kill the tumors. Thus, PDT has significant advantages over external beam radiation therapy that requires repetitive treatments over weeks or months. PDT has little or no systemic toxicity. Noninvasive imaging technology will provide a platform to evaluate new PDT drugs, to study action mechanisms, and to optimize therapeutic efficacy. Dr. Fei has demonstrated that PDT with a second-generation photosensitizing drug Pc 4 is effective for treating two human prostate cancers in animal models. For prostate cancer treatment, if radiation therapy fails, there is currently no standard method available for treating recurrent prostate cancer. Preliminary clinical trials have shown the promise and the unique advantages of PDT. Interstitial PDT can protect the integrity of the prostate and other important adjacent structures. Image-guided, minimally invasive PDT can protect vital organs and tissues, such as the neurovascular bundles, nerves, bladder and rectum. Thus, imaging-guided PDT has the potential to reduce side effects including impotence and urinary incontinence and to improve the quality of life of prostate cancer patients. Dr. Fei will continue to devaluate Pc 4-PDT, develop image-guided systems, and collaborate with clinicians to translate this new therapy from animals to human patients in Georgia.