Article Clinical trials Radiobiology Review Year 2005

Boron neutron capture therapy of cancer: current status and future prospects

Clinical Cancer Research, 2005

Authors:   Rolf F Barth, Jeffrey A Coderre, M Graça H Vicente, Thomas E Blue
Journal: Clinical Cancer Research
Abstract: Boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT) is based on the nuclear reaction that occurs when boron-10 is irradiated with low-energy thermal neutrons to yield high linear energy transfer alpha particles and recoiling lithium-7 nuclei. Clinical interest in BNCT has focused primarily on the treatment of high-grade gliomas and either cutaneous primaries or cerebral metastases of melanoma, most recently, head and neck and liver cancer. Neutron sources for BNCT currently are limited to nuclear reactors and these are available in the United States, Japan, several European countries, and Argentina. Accelerators also can be used to produce epithermal neutrons and these are being developed in several countries, but none are currently being used for BNCT. Two boron drugs have been used clinically, sodium borocaptate (Na(2)B(12)H(11)SH) and a dihydroxyboryl derivative of phenylalanine called boronophenylalanine. The major challenge in the development of boron delivery agents has been the requirement for selective tumor targeting to achieve boron concentrations ( approximately 20 microg/g tumor) sufficient to deliver therapeutic doses of radiation to the tumor with minimal normal tissue toxicity. Over the past 20 years, other classes of boron-containing compounds have been designed and synthesized that include boron-containing amino acids, biochemical precursors of nucleic acids, DNA-binding molecules, and porphyrin derivatives. High molecular weight delivery agents include monoclonal antibodies and their fragments, which can recognize a tumor-associated epitope, such as epidermal growth factor, and liposomes. However, it is unlikely that any single agent will target all or even most of the tumor cells, and most likely, combinations of agents will be required and their delivery will have to be optimized. Current or recently completed clinical trials have been carried out in Japan, Europe, and the United States. The vast majority of patients have had high-grade gliomas. Treatment has consisted first of “debulking” surgery to remove as much of the tumor as possible, followed by BNCT at varying times after surgery. Sodium borocaptate and boronophenylalanine administered i.v. have been used as the boron delivery agents. The best survival data from these studies are at least comparable with those obtained by current standard therapy for glioblastoma multiforme, and the safety of the procedure has been established. Critical issues that must be addressed include the need for more selective and effective boron delivery agents, the development of methods to provide semiquantitative estimates of tumor boron content before treatment, improvements in clinical implementation of BNCT, and a need for randomized clinical trials with an unequivocal demonstration of therapeutic efficacy. If these issues are adequately addressed, then BNCT could move forward as a treatment modality.