A potential breakthrough in the treatment of cancer is on the cards following a collaborative effort between the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Department of Nuclear Medicine and the European Commission’s science and knowledge service, the Joint Research Centre (JRC).

The two research bodies used targeted alpha therapy (TAT) to treat advanced-stage prostate cancer with promising results. TAT has the potential to provide highly targeted treatment.

UP says TAT is very expensive and were it not for the collaboration with JRC, the Department would not have been able to treat its patients with this form of therapy.

“TAT using 225Ac-PSMA has proved to be very successful, with an 85% success in treating patients with advanced-stage prostate cancer,” said Head of the Department of Nuclear Medicine, Prof Mike Sathekge.

According to UP, the Department of Nuclear Medicine is the only platform in Africa, and one of only three in the world, to offer this treatment. The Steve Biko Academic Hospital is the site for the treatment in South Africa.

At a recent event held at the hospital, Director of the JRC, Prof Maria Betti, extended an invitation for more collaboration with Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, who expressed a desire to include the Nuclear Medicine Department in South Africa’s cancer therapy strategy.

Prof Sathekge said he hoped the success would increase awareness of the benefits of nuclear medicine for cancer treatment, which will hopefully lead to large-scale trials.

He said due to the recent breakthroughs in prostate cancer therapy, people were starting to realise the importance of this treatment, and nuclear medicine and radionuclide therapy are becoming more of a focus point in the curriculum.

“The collaboration with the JRC is of utmost importance and has enabled the Department to make life-changing contributions to patients with advanced cancer,” concluded Prof Sathekge.

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