BNCT is a method for the selective destruction of malignant tumor cells by accumulating the boron-10 isotope in them and subsequent irradiation with a neutron beam. During the interaction of boron and a neutron, a nuclear reaction occurs in which high-energy particles (an alpha particle and an atomic nucleus of lithium) are born. They travel short distances (5-9 microns, which is comparable to the diameter of a mammalian cell) and cause fatal damage to tumor cells without affecting healthy ones. Scientists at Novosibirsk State University and the Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics SB RAS (INP) conducted an in vivo experiment on 15 cats and dogs with different types of spontaneous tumors. The result was a regression of neoplasms and improvement in the general condition of the animals.
Vladimir Kanygin, author of the research study, Candidate of Medical Sciences, and Head of the NSU Physics Department Laboratory of Nuclear and Innovative Medicine described their work,
This experiment is one of the significant results of NSU and INP long term joint work to develop BNCT methodology. During the 50-year history of the technique, quite a lot of experiments have been carried out all over the world. However, so far, publications have not noted studies on large mammals using accelerator neutron sources. In this sphere, we are absolute leaders. The effect of BNCT was obtained not only on cell cultures and laboratory mice, but also on large mammals, cats and dogs. Later, this may be expanded to rabbits and pigs. This is an obligatory stage to introduce BNCT technologies into medical practice.
The scientists opted for dogs and cats with spontaneous tumors (rather than grafted, as in lab mice) because they tend to develop similar cancers in the same organs as humans. In addition, the biological and therapeutic responses to tumors in domestic animals are better models of human tissue responses than those of small rodents. Thus, the study is key in testing BNCT technologies before the clinical stage.
Before us, no one in the region performed radiation exposure to tumors in dogs and cats. We are pioneers in this area, at least beyond the Urals. We receive a lot of requests for assistance, this is an unexpected «side effect» of the experiment. I think this work will develop in the near future.
The irradiation procedure lasted an average of two hours. Shortly before the start of irradiation, scientists at the Laboratory and specialists from veterinary clinics injected the animals with a targeted boron delivery drug. Then, they were immersed in a drug-induced sleep and placed under an accelerator through which the INP generated a neutron beam with the required parameters. During irradiation, the main physiological parameters of the animals were monitored. The entire period after the animal’s treatment was under the supervision of specialists. The dynamics of tumors and the parameters of the general condition of the patients were verified by tomography and repeated laboratory tests.
Sergey Taskaev, co-author of the study, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, and Chief Researcher at INP talked about the results,
This is really important research. We have seen with our own eyes that the technique works. We created a neutron source that obtained a beam, the quality of which makes it possible to treat dogs and cats with malignant tumors. This is a very valuable result.
In Russia, a state program has been launched to move the accelerator neutron source built at the INP into the clinical phase. In 2023-2024, specialists at the Institute will manufacture and supply the source to the Blokhin Federal State Budgetary Institution National Medical Research Center of Oncology for preclinical and clinical BNCT trials.
Kanygin talked about the future,
We will continue our research in order to share new developments with our Moscow colleagues. The final result of the NSU and INP joint work will be the improvement of various aspects of the basic BNCT technology in its preclinical stage. We are talking about creating a certain group of directives for the delivery of boron-containing drugs. It is possible that we will switch to other carriers or to other variants of neutron capture therapy. The capabilities of this unique equipment will be maximized.Early we talked about students working on healthy sweets startups: vitaminized chocolate and diet kurabie (cookies) for people with cardiovascular disease. And lecturer of NSU IMP Alla Ovsyannikova who develops a program to identify diabetes of the young type.