Technology & innovation

In Russia’s Far East, biotech researchers bet on curative nuclear powers

29 Mar '12
Oleg Kouzbit, Online News Managing Editor

Vladivostok-headquartered Far East Federal University has launched its long-term cancer-fighting program, Nuclear Medicine. The developers hope that new knowledge to be gained in this ambitious international effort will eventually translate into successful early-stage treatment of such hard-to-diagnose malignant tumors as brain cancer, lung cancer, and liver cancer.

Far East Federal University (FEFU) has recently announced its long-term project, Nuclear Medicine, aimed at developing new ways of treating cancers. Between now and 2014 the university is expected to spend on the endeavor more than $10m and fully equip its Medical Center in Vladivostok that FEFU says will start full-blown operation in the upcoming fall.

The university reportedly has plans to create a number of scientific teams tasked with both fundamental and applied research in the nuclear and radiation biotech fields. Researchers will focus on brain cancer, lung cancer, liver cancer and other malignant neoplasms that are most difficult to diagnose at their early stages—a plague of most anti-cancer therapies available at the moment.

To address these and other vital issues an array of new research hubs will be set up, the university says, including a biological trial center, an advanced research center and a proton-ion therapy center. Establishing a solid scientific base for all-encompassing studies in molecular visualization, ion beams and their impact on human DNA, as well as research in the neurocognitive area, is believed to pave the way for developing next gen y-tracers, including those using nano-structured substances.

In this ambitious effort FEFU is said to have partnered with Russian and international leaders in nuclear medicine, including the Kurchatov Institute, the Russian Academy of Sciences, the United Nuclear Research Institute, as well as Nuclear Physics Research University in Osaka, Japan.

Prof. Alexander Molochkov, the project manager, hopes that FEFU’s Nuclear Medicine will not only help dramatically improve healthcare programs in Russia’s Far East but will also “save thousands of lives.” Last year, cancer incidence in Russia topped 300 cases per 100,000 population, he said, adding that about 50% of those afflicted needed radiation therapy and to more than 20% only ion therapy could bring new hope.

According to the Russian Ministry of Healthcare and Social Development, as of late 2010 2.8 million people, or 2% of Russia’s entire population, had various cancers.

The project owner

Set up in 2009 by a special presidential decree, Far East Federal University now incorporates four regional campuses across the vast Primorsky area; another will be built just outside Vladivostok on the island of Russky that is hosting this year’s Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

Under the RF’s ten-year expansion program for the university, FEFU will develop a multiple research focus on areas as diverse as oceanic resources, energy saving, nano-systems and nano-materials, transport and logistics, biomed, and interaction with the Asian-Pacific countries.

Top-notch equipment for the worthy cause

FEFU has reported plans to purchase new equipment for its Medical Center, including a unique synchrotron for proton-ion therapy that is assumed to be superior to conventional radiation methods.

So far such equipment has only been used for physical experiments in Russia’s leading nuclear centers. Unlike the U.S. and Western Europe that have been widely employing proton therapy in many specialized medical centers, Russia is just beginning to sketch out such centers. Only four have been envisioned across the country, and Far East Federal University will have one under its current project.

To do diagnostics and applied pharmacology and radiobiology research Russia’s first combined positron emission and computed tomographic scanner will also be built, the project developers say.

FEFU says it will use its innovative technologies at its own clinic, offering quality surgeries and chemotherapy to hundreds of cancer patients in the Far East, and also wants to promote its developments across the entire country.
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Locations: Vladivostok

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