April 29, 2014
Poland’s most modern laboratory for preclinical studies of radiopharmaceuticals has opened at the National Center for Nuclear Research (NCBJ) in Świerk near Warsaw. The zl.2.5 million lab will increase the center’s research potential, in particular speed up work on new radiopharmaceuticals used in cancer treatment.
Preclinical studies on experimental animals are a key stage of the process of developing new radiopharmaceuticals and then introducing them to medical practice. In the case of drugs designed for cancer diagnostics and treatment, issues evaluated during preclinical studies include a drug’s efficiency, its bio-distribution paths within the body, and the way it is metabolized. This stage also involves identification of organs critically vulnerable to ionizing radiation, and a rough estimation of doses that will be applied as a starting point in clinical studies. Every new radiopharmaceutical intended for cancer diagnostics and treatment must pass such a procedure.
“A highly specialized lab for preclinical studies is a strategic facility for every research and production center involved in the development of new radiopharmaceuticals,” says Dariusz Socha, Ph.D., director of the Polatom radioisotope unit at the National Center for Nuclear Research (NCBJ).
The new lab meets the latest recommendations of European and global organizations on animal testing—including the 3R (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement) principle, which requires the use of methods enabling the achievement of high quality research results while minimizing the number of animal-based tests, Socha says.
The new lab for preclinical studies will significantly increase the research potential of the National Center for Nuclear Research. The center’s researchers will now be able to use models of human cancers in animals with reduced immunity, in addition to conducting in vivo multifunctional imaging of the physiological distribution of radiopharmaceuticals on experimental animals, and research on the specific features of individual drugs, for example on the accumulation of markers in specific cells/tissues.
A Gamma camera combined with a PhotonImager is the single most valuable piece of equipment, worth zl.1.4 million, in the new lab. Other cutting-edge equipment includes devices for imaging the distribution of drugs administered to test animals—the paths along which the drugs are carried and the sites where they accumulate.
Laboratory mice and rats will no longer need to be killed to be effectively studied using the new devices. As a result, the number of animals for the test procedures will be reduced sixfold in some cases.
Test animals are kept in modern cages that meet the most stringent standards and ensure a fresh air supply, a comfortable temperature of around 22 degrees Celsius, 55 percent relative humidity, lighting with regulated intensity, and low noise level (below 60 dB). The new animal cages meet top standards and are regularly inspected by veterinary inspectors.