Luna Innovations Incorporated (NASDAQ: LUNA) announces an award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to improve the detection and diagnosis of brain tumors. Under this program, Luna will adapt its exclusive contrast agent technology using carbon nanospheres to produce an improved magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) agent. This next-generation contrast agent will be designed to enhance tumor imaging and advance the diagnosis and treatment of this disease by directing nanomolecules to seek out specific biological targets, such as a glioblastoma tumor, one specific form of brain cancer.
MRI is critical for the diagnosis and evaluation of many forms of brain and other cancers. “Primary malignant brain tumors cause 13,000 deaths in the United States annually and survival rates following therapeutic intervention are among the lowest compared to other cancers,” stated Robert Lenk, President of Luna’s nanoWorks division. “The work we are doing with NIH allows us the opportunity to build on our existing contrast agent platform of carbon nanomedicines and ultimately improve the detection and diagnosis of these high risk brain tumors.”
Luna’s imaging technology can be modified to direct it to accumulate at specific targets. Luna’s MRI contrast agent prototype is based on a modification of its TRIMETASPHERE® carbon nanomaterial known as the HYDROCHALARONE™, which has shown promise to significantly enhance relaxivity, a property that provides for better imaging; is extremely stable; is water soluble; and has the potential to be modified to clear from the bloodstream quickly or slowly, depending on the specific application. “Luna’s Hydrochalarone technology platform can be modified to produce targeted contrast agents, which selectively highlight the tumor cells. Our hope is that our novel approach will provide better resolution to radiologists, who in turn, will improve patient outcomes,” said Kent Murphy, Chairman and CEO of Luna Innovations Incorporated.
Last November, Luna announced its first grant with the NIH using this carbon nanotechnology platform to improve the identification of coronary artery disease. Under this program, Luna proposed to develop a diagnostic agent that would allow the use of MRI, potentially providing a noninvasive measure to evaluate plaque in the arteries without the use of ionizing radiation and catheters.