A new Center for Interventional Oncology has been established at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center (CC). It offers new and expanded opportunities to investigate cancer therapies that use imaging technology to diagnose and treat localized cancers in ways that are just targeted and minimally or non-invasive. The center is a collaboration involving the CC, NIH’s clinical research hospital in Bethesda, the National Cancer Institute, and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

Bradford Wood, a CC senior investigator, is chief of the new center. “The Center for Interventional Oncology will help foster advances in an emerging field for minimally invasive, image-guided methods for treating localized cancers,” he said. “It will also help bridge the gap between emerging technology and the everyday practice of medicine. Advanced imaging methods have ushered in an era of early detection of cancers that are frequently localized to a single organ. Today, oncology treatments typically use systemic therapies such as chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, which are well-suited for wide-spread disease, but may also cause widespread side effects.”

The new center is intended to provide a forum for and encourage collaborations among research and patient-care experts in medical, surgical, and radiation oncology and interventional radiology, noted John I. Gallin, CC director. “The Clinical Center provides an exceptional environment for this type of collaborative research and patient care.”

The new center’s goal is localized treatment and drug delivery by use of advanced imaging technologies located at the Clinical Center, including cutting-edge magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), positron emission tomography (PET), and computed tomography (CT) — combined with the capability to use all three technologies simultaneously to navigate a therapeutic device through the body.

The localized therapies use a thin needle or sound waves to ablate (or cook) tumors and to enhance drug delivery. Energy sources include high-intensity focused ultrasound, freezing, microwaves, and radiofrequency, Wood said. Researchers will also expand investigations into electroporation — the use of electricity to make cells more open to targeted drug delivery. Image-guided drug delivery will be developed, which will allow combining use of nanoparticles, ablative devices, and advanced imaging and navigation.

Educational and training opportunities are part of the program. “Many oncologists are not currently familiar with, nor trained in, image-based, localized treatment approaches from which many patients may benefit. Conversely, interventional radiologists lack formal training in oncology,” Wood said. “This new program is ideally and uniquely positioned to provide an interdisciplinary environment combining training, patient treatment, and translational research and development in interventional oncology.”

Major program components will include:

Interdisciplinary training and education in interventional oncology

Development of new image-guided for methods for personalized drug investigations

Image-guided dose-painting — tailoring drug delivery based on disease location

Use of ‘medical GPS’ — a system by which small micro coils are built onto invasive devices (like needles or catheters or cameras) and inserted into a patient to define, target, and track the position of tumors during thermal ablation (cooking tumors with needles) — for tumor biopsy and treatment

First-in-human investigations involving new drugs, devices, molecular probes, nanoparticles, and targeted therapies

Interdisciplinary research involving novel technologies in interventional oncology.

David Bluemke, director of Clinical Center Radiology and Imaging Sciences, will head the Center for Interventional Oncology steering committee that comprises two NCI appointees and one each from NHLBI and the CC.