PHACET awardees are testing surgery probes for pediatric brain cancer

Summer Gibbs, Ph.D., and Adam Alani, Ph.D., received the first PHACET seed funding award established by the OSU College of Pharmacy and OHSU Center for Experimental Therapeutics. The researchers are developing fluorescence-guided surgery probes for pediatric neuroblastoma.

Gibbs is an associate professor of biomedical engineering in the OHSU School of Medicine. Alani is an associate professor in OSU College of Pharmacy. 

Neuroblastoma tumors often have an infiltrative growth pattern, making margin-negative surgical resections challenging to achieve with current intraoperative tools. To aid in successful surgical resection, a novel fluorescence-guided surgery (FGS) technology may provide tissue-specific, real-time intraoperative contrast. The research team has developed a library of derivatives of a small-molecule fluorophore scaffold that shows high nerve-tissue specificity. The proposed research will select candidate probes from the library and evaluate their suitability for clinical use in pediatric neuroblastoma patients.

The PHACET seed funding program, launched in November 2022, was designed to foster collaborative research that will enable researchers at Oregon State University and OHSU to generate proof of feasibility of new approaches for improved detection, prevention, or treatment of human disease. Disease areas considered for funding include, but are not limited to cancer, cardiometabolic disease, neurological disorders, and infectious diseases. Currently, a total amount of $40,000 per year is allocated to the PHACET program.

The types of research considered for funding include: basic research that builds a greater understanding of disease prevention, development and progression; development of novel disease models; tests novel detection methodology or technology; tests experimental therapeutics in preclinical models; or, evaluates novel formulations to improve the pharmacokinetic properties of existing and experimental therapeutics. The program will also consider research that will identify risk factors of disease (e.g., mutations, biomarkers/omics profiles) in underserved and marginalized communities in order to increase diversity in future clinical trials, by using existing clinical samples or data. It is expected that recipients of seed funding grants will build on their proof-of-concept data to pursue extramural funding.

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Knight Cancer Institute