Patrícia M. Ribeiro Pereira, PhD, assistant professor of radiology for Mallinckrodt Institute of Radiology (MIR) at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, received a Nuclear Medicine Pilot Research Grant In Neuroendocrine Tumors from the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation (NETRF). The two-year, $100,000 award will fund her project “Improving imaging and radiotherapy of nets by endocytic modulation of somatostatin receptors,” which aims to develop more effective treatments for neuroendocrine cancers.
The pilot grant is designed to help scientists early in their careers conduct novel and innovative research that could receive further funding from other foundations, corporations or government agencies. NETRF funds these awards through the Education and Research Foundation for Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging.
Ribeiro Pereira and members of the Disease Imaging and Therapy Lab in MIR’s Precision Radiotheranostics Translation Center will use the funds to study the variation in how patients with neuroendocrine tumors respond to Lutathera (177Lu-DOTATATE), a peptide-based radionuclide therapy. Not all tumors respond to this treatment and tumor heterogeneity contributes to inadequate lutetium-177 delivery, ultimately leading to disease progression. The lab hypothesizes that the variation in patient responses to Lutathera relates to the membrane density of somatostatin receptors available for binding Lutathera in tumors.
The pilot grant aims to use the lab’s imaging methodologies to discover the membrane trafficking mechanisms of SSTR2 — an important membrane protein that is overexpressed in most neuroendocrine tumors — and determine whether SSTR2 trafficking can be modulated to enhance the efficacy of Lutathera. These approaches will enhance Lutathera therapy for neuroendocrine tumors and increase the number of patients that benefit from this endoradiotherapy.
“My priority with this funding is to translate our mechanistic findings in cancer biology into treatment strategies with improved and prolonged efficacy,” said Ribeiro Pereira. “This pilot grant is instrumental in helping us generate new knowledge that will ultimately improve the lives of thousands of patients living with neuroendocrine cancer.”