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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 3, 2003
Contact: Karen Warmkessel kwarmkessel@umm.edu 410-328-8919
Ellen Beth Levitt eblevitt@umm.edu 410-328-8919

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND SCIENTISTS TO USE RADIOACTIVE ISOTOPES FROM RUSSIA'S NUCLEAR STOCKPILES FOR CANCER RESEARCH

Unique federally funded partnership promotes "atoms for peace" initiative

As part of a unique, federally funded partnership with Russian oncologists and scientists known as the American Russian Cancer Alliance, University of Maryland researchers will receive shipments of radioactive isotopes from Russia's nuclear stockpiles for cutting-edge cancer research.

The radioactive material, called actinium, will be used to study a new approach to treating solid tumors, says Bruce R. Line, M.D., professor of Diagnostic Radiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of Nuclear Medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

"Working with our colleagues at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, we have developed a novel approach using polymers to deliver bismuth, a derivative of actinium, directly into tumors. Our goal is to destroy the blood vessels that feed the cancer in order to stop its growth," Dr. Line says. If this technique proves successful in the laboratory, it may later be offered to patients in carefully controlled clinical studies.

Actinium, a powerful source of alpha rays, is extracted from uranium. This innovative research is the first of its kind in the United States using this radioactive material from Russia.

U.S. Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, (D., Md.) has been instrumental in obtaining federal funds for the American Russian Cancer Alliance (ARCA), which was created nearly two years ago. In the past two years, Mr. Hoyer has helped to secure more than $800,000 in funding for the partnership.

Participants in the alliance include the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center, Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Russia's largest cancer research and treatment facility--the 1,600-bed N.N. Blokhin National Cancer Research Center in Moscow--and the Kurchatov Institute, the premier Russian nuclear research center.

Stephen C. Schimpff, M.D., director of the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center and executive vice president of the University of Maryland Medical Center, says, "We are enormously grateful to Congressman Hoyer for his support of the American Russian Cancer Alliance and this "atoms for peace" initiative. It enables us to conduct research that may, one day, produce life-saving treatments for many cancer patients."

David J. Ramsay, DM, DPhil, president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore, says, "This innovative, collaborative research is strong evidence of the interdisciplinary nature of our campus and the unique relationships that empower us to improve health care. We are grateful for Congressman Hoyer's efforts to support the American Russian Cancer Alliance."

"We are pleased to be taking a leadership role in this exciting research that we hope will open up new opportunities to help patients. It is an example of the talent and creativity of our physicians and scientists," says Donald E. Wilson, M.D., MACP, Vice President for Medical Affairs, University of Maryland, and Dean, School of Medicine.

"We would not have been able to continue this important work without the support of Congressman Hoyer and the American Russian Cancer Alliance," adds Dr. Wilson.

The University of Maryland plans to receive six to eight shipments of the radioactive isotopes in the coming months.

"The American Russian Cancer Alliance, through its sponsorship of meetings and workshops in both countries, provides a special venue for the participants to discuss and investigate new research projects. Our goal is to produce more collaborative projects, such as the University of Maryland research that targets solid tumors with Russian isotopes," according to Sophia Michaelson, executive director of the Alliance. This past March, a group of Russian radiation oncologists and physicists visited the Greenebaum Cancer Center and Fox Chase Cancer Center to get a first-hand look at advanced treatments and research being conducted in the United States.

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This page was last updated on: June 6, 2008.