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UCLA Health to open theranostics center offering Lutetium177-PSMA radionuclide therapy

by Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief | May 19, 2023
Molecular Imaging
UCLA Health is set to open its first outpatient theranostics center this year, a 3,000-square-foot facility that will treat patients with advanced prostate cancer, neuroendocrine tumors and thyroid cancer.

Four nurses, three nuclear medicine technologists, two radiation safety specialists, and nine physicians will be dedicated to the center, which will contain eight infusion chairs and the capacity to deliver 80 transfusions to patients per week, or 4,000 treatment cycles per year.

“Drugs that are radioactive cannot be administered in a large volume in a typical outpatient medical center,” Dr. Jeremie Calais, associate professor at the David Geffen School of Medicine and director of the Ahmanson Translational Theranostics Division’s clinical research program, told UCLA Health. "To handle more patients and radiopharmaceutical management, we needed a facility like this.”
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UCLA Health was one of the first sites in the U.S. to participate in a phase II clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of the Lutetium177-PSMA radionuclide therapy. Then, in 2018, Novartis acquired the rights to the drug and initiated a phase III randomized study, called the VISION trial.

Approved by the FDA in 2022 under the name Pluvicto, Lutetium177-PSMA treats metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer in patients who have already undergone standard-of-care treatments such as androgen receptor pathway inhibition and chemotherapy, and has been proved to increase overall survival. It combines a targeting compound or ligand with a radioactive particle, and emits a small amount of ionizing beta radiation to the tumor from a short distance away to avoid hitting surrounding healthy tissue.

“This will be one of the largest centers of its kind in the U.S. — it’s exciting to be on the forefront of theranostics," added Calais.

The center is the outcome of clinical and research faculty work led by Calais and Dr. Martin Allen-Auerbach, a clinical professor of Molecular and Medical Pharmacology, as well as colleagues in urology, radiation oncology, radiology, and oncology, among others.

The center is funded by the Ronald Reagan Medical Center, with support from the David Geffen School of Medicine and the UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. It will be housed on the seventh floor of the 100 Medical Plaza building on UCLA Health’s Westwood campus, and is expected to open this summer.

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