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Home > Press > Less invasive radiotherapy thanks to medical imaging with Nanobodies

Radiotherapy, also known as "irradiation" is a treatment to destroy cancer cells. For optimal treatment, the radiation therapists must apply a very high radiation dose to the whole tumor with side effects for the patient. Research teams of VIB, Vlaams Instituut voor Biotechnologie, and the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, have developed a technique to visualize which regions of the tumor cope best with radiotherapy.

Less invasive radiotherapy thanks to medical imaging with Nanobodies

Zwijnaarde, Belgium | Posted on August 2nd, 2012

Jo Van Ginderachter (VIB - Vrije Universiteit Brussel): "By distinguishing in areas with high and low resistance to radiotherapy, radiation therapists can refine their irradiation. It is only necessary to give the more resistant regions a high radiation dose, for the other regions a lower dose is sufficient. We hope that in time this can lead to fewer side effects in patients that undergo irradiation."

Macrophages detection in cancer cells

The researchers, led by Jo Van Ginderachter, Nick Devoogdt and Patrick De Baetselier developed a Nanobody® targeting the MMR protein that is produced by a specific type of macrophages that occurs in tumor cells. These macrophages are predominantly in the regions of the tumor with very low oxygen concentration, and these are the regions that are highly resistant to irradiation. The presence of macrophages in the tumor is, moreover, usually a poor prognostic factor. Macrophages promote tumor growth and metastasis through various mechanisms.

Nick Devoogdt (Vrije Universiteit Brussel): "Through our Nanobody®, for the first time, we can visualize the presence of macrophages in the tumor swelling. Nanobody® is radioactively labeled, so we can have an image of where the tumors are spreading with the use of a scanner. Thus, we learn more about the behavior of the cancer. This can be a major step forward for the prognosis determination of the patient."

Thanks to the dromedary

The Nanobody® targeting the MMR protein was made with the help of a dromedary! Dromedaries make antibodies that are much smaller and more stable than conventional antibodies. When these animals are administered recombinant MMR-molecules, they develop anti-MMR antibodies. Of these antibodies, only the fragment that binds to the protein are then kept. Since such a fragment is very small, it is called the Nanobody®. These small dimensions are also an important plus for the use of a Nanobody® for imaging creation in tumors because these small molecules easily penetrate the tumor.

Full bibliographic information

Nanobody-based targeting of the Macrophage Mannose Receptor for effective in vivo imaging of tumor-associated macrophages
Kiavash Movahedi1, Steve Schoonooghe1, Damya Laoui2, Isabelle Houbracken3, Wim Waelput4, Karine Breckpot5, Luc Bouwens3, Tony Lahoutte6, Patrick De Baetselier2, Geert Raes1, Nick Devoogdt7, and Jo A. Van Ginderachter2,
Cancer Research


About VIB
VIB is a non-profit research institute in life sciences. About 1,200 scientists conduct strategic basic research on the molecular mechanisms that are responsible for the functioning of the human body, plants, and microorganisms. Through a close partnership with four Flemish universities − UGent, KU Leuven, University of Antwerp, and Vrije Universiteit Brussel − and a solid funding program, VIB unites the forces of 72 research groups in a single institute. The goal of the research is to extend the boundaries of our knowledge of life. Through its technology transfer activities, VIB translates research results into products for the benefit of consumers and patients and contributes to new economic activity. VIB develops and disseminates a wide range of scientifically substantiated information about all aspects of biotechnology. More information:

Vrije Universiteit Brussel
The Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) is a thriving university in the heart of Belgium and Europe, which in 1969-1970 split off from the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), founded in 1834. VUB combines excellence in teaching with excellence in research. Several of its 150 research groups are topranked worldwide. The principle of independent research is central at VUB, but the quality of its undergraduate and graduate programs is no less important, as the university provides an environment where students are treated as individuals and supported in their personal development. Currently, VUB has some 10,000 students and 2,700 staff, divided over eight faculties and two Brussels campuses (in Etterbeek/Elsene and Jette). The VUB University Hospital is adjacent to the Medical Sciences campus in Jette and employs 3,000 people. More info:

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Nick Devoogdt
+32 497 50 48 55

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