Paul Okunieff, MD, Chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the UF College of Medicine, and the University of Florida Health Cancer Center Radiation Oncology team will continue development of a radiation toxicity biomarker through a $2 million National Cancer Institute (NCI) Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract.
The proposed clinical study aims to develop personalized toxicity endpoints so that patients can be subcategorized into personalized risk groups. Dr. Okunieff also received the continuation of a $4.5M NIAID molecular targeted agent for radiation protection.
While radiation is required by 70 percent of cancer patients, there is currently no reliable methodology for determining its adverse effects during treatment. Under the two-year, Phase II NCI Agreement, scientists in California will collaborate with Dr. Okunieff, Co-Principal Investigator leading clinical aspects, and the UFHCC team. Blood specimens collected from up to 500 patients undergoing radiotherapy for prostate cancer at multiple U.S. clinical sites will be analyzed.
“We are fulfilling an unmet medical need in cancer radiation therapy by enabling the direct monitoring of side effect severity and tumor response within days of treatment initiation,” said Dr. Okunieff (shown above). “This NCI-supported contract puts us in a powerful position to begin development of quantitative and precision ‘liquid biopsies.’ It is a very exciting opportunity for the UF Department of Radiation Oncology and the Okunieff Lab to make a real difference in the quality and safety of care for individual cancer patients.”