The Weber laboratory pursues both preclinical as well as clinical research. We strive not just to design novel drugs, approaches, and treatment options, but to translate them into the clinic.
On the preclinical side of our translations efforts, we are currently interested in two distinct approaches: the design of hybrid intraoperative/whole-body imaging probes and the translation of PET imaging agents into radiotherapeutics.
Most biomedical imaging programs focus on either intraoperative imaging techniques (commonly based on near-infrared fluorophores) or whole-body imaging (based on PET imaging). The majority of successful approaches, however, do not get translated into clinical research because of the high financial barriers. In particular, imaging agents that have been designed for just a subset of cancers and only one imaging modality are often not used beyond the preclinical stage. In our laboratory, we are trying to create selective and specific reporter systems that are not only observable in a single imaging mode, but multimodally. This would increase their clinical value, make their application cheaper, and ultimately reduce healthcare costs.
The development of PET imaging for clinical diagnosis and treatment monitoring has revolutionized cancer care. Yet, although the detection, identification, and monitoring of malignant growth with PET imaging agents (18F, 64Cu, 89Zr, and 68Ga) has made quantum leaps over the last decades, the development of radiotherapeutic agents (177Lu, 225Ac, and 90Y) has been neglected. We believe that the design of targeted vectors for the purpose of imaging will be beneficial not just for the detection but also for the destruction of cancer tissue. To this end, we are using selective motifs based on small molecules, peptides, and peptidomimetics — optimizing their half-lifes for clinical applications and using their therapeutic radioactive payloads to selectively destroy tumor tissue.