by Chiara Magni
The Hatanaka Award is dedicated to one of the main personalities who led to the development of BNCT: Hiroshi Hatanaka. As an Exchange Scholar with the support of a Fulbright Travel Grant, he joined the laboratory of Prof. William H. Sweet, who first had realized the clinical potential of BNCT to treat cancer and at the time Chief of the Neurosurgical Service at Massachusetts General Hospital. In 1968, in Japan, the team led by Hatanaka started the BNCT treatment of patients with malignant brain tumors using the new boron compound Na2B12H11SH, now commonly known as BSH.The Hitachi Training Reactor and the Musashi Institute of Technology Reactor were initially used as neutron sources, and a neutron irradiation facility at the Kyoto University Research Reactor from 1974. Between 1966 and 1993, Hatanaka treated approximately 120 patients with high grade gliomas using a combination of surgery and BNCT. The results obtained by Hatanaka were favorable, suggesting the efficacy of BNCT, nevertheless Hatanaka had to face high doses of criticism and skepticism from neurosurgeons and radiation oncologists. Hatanaka persevered, and it is also thanks to his efforts that the value of BNCT is now more and more recognized worldwide.
1994-2021 Hatanaka Award Recipients
2021 – 19th ICNCT (Granada, Spain) – Fong-In Chou (Taiwan) &Leena Kankaanranta (Finland)
2018 – 18th ICNCT (Taipei, Taiwan) – Amanda E. Schwint (Argentina) & Mitsunori Kirihata (Japan) & Junichi Hiratsuka (Japan)
2016 – 17th ICNCT (Missouri, USA) – Heikki Joensuu (Finland)
2014 – 16th ICNCT (Helsinki, Finland) – Shin-Ichi Miyatake (Japan)
2012 – 15th ICNCT (Tsukuba, Japan) – Raymond Moss (Netherlands)
2010 – 14th ICNCT (Buenos Aires, Argentina) – Tooru Kobayashi (Japan) & Akira Matsumura (Japan) & Koji Ono (Japan)
2008 – 13th ICNCT (Florence, Italy) – Otto Harling (USA)
2006 – 12th ICNCT (Kagawa, Japan) – David Nigg (USA) & Wolfgang Sauerwein (Germany)
2004 – 11th ICNCT (Boston, USA) – Rolf Barth (USA)
2002 – 10th ICNCT (Essen, Germany) – Yoshinobu Nakagawa (Japan)
2000 – 9th ICNCT (Osaka, Japan) – Detlef Gabel (Germany)
1998 – 8th ICNCT (La Jolla, USA) – Borje Larsson (Sweden)
1996 – 7th ICNCT (Zurich, Switzerland) – Yoshinori Yamamoto (Japan)
1994 – 6th ICNCT (Kobe, Japan) – Jeffrey Coderre (USA)
by Andrea Monti Hughes
Prof. Fong-In Chou is from Hsinchu, Taiwan. She has performed a long career at the National Tsing Hua University, starting from her degree in Radiobiologist (Institute of Radiation Biology) to her Ph.D. in Radiomicrobiologist at the Institute of Life Sciences. She has been the Director of the Nuclear Science and Technology Development Center (NSTDC) in this University (2007-2010). Nowadays, she continues in this Center as a Professor.
She has been working on BNCT for several years. In 1992, she joined the BNCT Development Team in Taiwan. She worked in BNCT as a visiting researcher in the laboratory of Prof. Rolf Bath, at the Ohio State University, USA (1999). From 2007, she has coordinated the International and Interdisciplinary BNCT Project for Clinical Trials and Basic Research at the Tsing Hua Open Pool Reactor. She has been collaborating in the ISNCT Society actively, as a member of the Board of Councilors (end at 2012), organizing the ICNCT18 in Taipei (Taiwan) and now as a member of the Executive Committee.
Her career was very fruitful, with 15 patents, over 60 papers in peer-reviewed journals, 50 conference papers, and several lectures to national and international audiences. She has performed a bench-to-bedside research, as she coordinated BNCT translational studies and clinical trials at the Tsing Hua Open Pool Reactor from the first patient.
In the field of BNCT clinical trials, she and her team performed 100 treatments for brain tumors and 117 for head and neck cancers. These important trials started with the establishment of a Trilateral Cooperation between NSTDC National Tsing Hua University, KURRI Kyoto University, and the Cancer Center Taipei Veterans General Hospital for BNCT on March 2010. They treated the first patient at THOR-BNCT in August 2010. Between 2010 and 2013, they conducted 17 BNCT treatments for patients with head and neck tumors. In 2017, they performed compassionate BNCT for brain and head and neck cancer patients. Their actual efforts are centered to extend BNCT to other malignancies such as hepatoma.
Related to her radiobiological contributions on BNCT, she coordinated the interdisciplinary project “Translational Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) Studies”, and established a cooperation between different institutes and hospitals. She and her group explored different strategies to improve BPA delivery, study its pharmacokinetics and microdistribution and evaluated imaging techniques to provide a sensitive and non-invasive approach to evaluate BNCT therapeutic effect against head and neck carcinoma. Related to BNCT for hepatoma patients, she and her group demonstrated that BNCT mediated by boric acid (BA) exerted a significant and high therapeutic response in N1-S1 hepatoma bearing SD rats and in multinodular hepatic VX2 tumor-bearing rabbits. They also demonstrated that BA-BNCT significantly reduced tumor burden and osteolysis in osteosarcoma-bearing SD rats.
Her significant contributions in the radiobiological and clinical field of BNCT for different pathologies were recognized by her BNCT colleagues around the World, with the decision to grant her with the Hatanaka Award 2021. CONGRATULATIONS Prof. Fong-In Chou!
by Chiara Magni
Leena Kankaanranta’s very fruitful scientific production, with numerous publications of valuable clinical data, inspired several other groups worldwide and still represents an indispensable reference point in clinical BNCT studies.
Leena Kankaanranta was born in Helsinki, Finland, from a war officer father and customs officer working mother. She spent some years in USA, and she graduated at Mammoth High school in California in 1977. Then, after the graduation at Etu- Töölön Lukio in Helsinki, she attended Tampere University Medical Faculty, obtaining the degree in 5 years. She worked in few specialities for 5 years before returning to Helsinki to work at the Cancer Clinic Helsinki.
In such framework, she approached BNCT research after Professor Holsti of the Helsinki Cancer Center met Professor Hatanaka in Japan. Since then, the VTT FiR-1 research reactor project started to support health sciences, aiming for BNCT treatments too. Great work was done, at the neurology department also (Merja Kallio team), to start the first glioma study in Finland.
In collaboration with physicists Tiina Seppälä, Hanna Koivunoro and Sauli Savolainen, Leena Kankaanranta dedicated to clinical BNCT work. She and her team had a fundamental role in developing the research and application of BNCT. In May 1999 the first glioma patient was treated with BNCT in Finland, demonstrating BNCT safe and the overall survival comparable to photon post-operative therapy.
The work proved the safety and effectiveness of BNCT and defined a safe level of boronophenylalanine fructose infusion in 2 hours.
Then, following the suggestion of Prof. Heikki Joensuu, patients with recurrent head and neck tumors, were considered as the second candidate tumor group for BNCT, having annoying symptoms and very little treatment options at the time. The results of Leena Kankaanranta and colleagues achieved tumor reduction, patient symptom relief, and complete response delivering 2 BNCT treatments 4-5 weeks apart in the first protocol. Moreover, the team developed the use of BNCT as palliative care, reaching long term palliative aid with one treatment session.
Leena Kankaanranta’s activity not only demonstrates the importance of research for better clinical treatments, but is also characterized by constant attention to the patient’s well-being.
More than hundred patients diagnosed with glioblastoma or head-and-neck cancer have been treated at the Helsinki University Central Hospital/VTT BNCT facility since May 1999.
After the installation of a neutron accelerator in Helsinki, the work of Leena Kankaanranta and colleagues focuses on accelerator-based BNCT. The first trials on head and neck tumours aim to assess the safety of accelerated BPA-f mediated BNCT in Helsinki. Later, the team may expand BNCT targets to other cancer types and parts of body, possibly with new boron carriers.
Celebrating the valuable contribution of Leena Kankaanranta in BNCT field, we conclude with her words:
«Always be true and critical in your work and listen to your multiprofessional team members with respect… The Finnish proverb: “Better a mile to search than an inch of danger” is a safe way to go on in BNCT, too.»
Thanks to Leena Kankaanranta and congratulations again for the Hatanaka Award 2021!