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Development of new theranostics probes for high grade ovarian serous carcinoma

Our research group focuses on the development of novel and effective diagnostic probes and therapeutic molecules (theranostics) for high grade ovarian serous carcinoma (HGOSC). Our research is centered on targeting cell surface proteins expressed by HGOSC cells like the apelin receptor, a G protein-coupled receptor that is highly expressed in HGOSC. The apelin receptor has also pro-proliferative and pro-survival effects in ovarian cancer, this receptor also plays a major role in the migration processes that disseminate ovarian cancer metastases throughout the abdominal cavity. We are currently developing peptide-based theranostic probes for the apelin receptor and label them with Gallium-68 for imaging and Lutetium-177 for therapy.

In addition to the apelin receptor, we are also interested in cell-cycle arrest and DNA damages. For this purpose, we develop trojan horse strategy using cell-penetrating peptides that can penetrate into cancer cells and deliver small molecules and peptides for cell cycle arrest. Peptides can be labelled with different therapeutic radionuclides like Actinium-225 or Lead-212 to induce DNA damages after penetration into the HGOSC cells.

Glioblatoma theranostics program (UCLA Neurotheranostics)

The Besserer Lab is part of the Neurotheranostics Program, an informal consortium of scientists and clinicians aiming to develop new radiotherapeutics for brain cancers and especially glioblastoma. This partnership is centered on targeting cell surface proteins expressed by cancer cells and stromal cells (support cells surrounding the tumor) with newly developed or repurposed therapeutic radioligands. We already identified two possible cell surface targets that are highly and specifically expressed by GBM tumors and will continue to exploit current RNA-Seq and proteomic databases to identify other novel cell surfaces proteins highly expressed by GBM subtypes that could be targeted for personalized diagnosis and therapy. We also aim to develop innovative ways to cross the blood-brain barrier using different techniques such as the use of conjugation with brain-penetrant molecules. Finally, we have an interest in personalized medicine and the use of innovative technology to identify tumors that are at the high potential to respond to a precise drug or combination of drugs.