Although radiation therapy is an important cancer treatment modality, patients may experience adverse effects. The use of a radiation-effect modulator may help improve the outcome and health-related quality of life (HRQOL) of patients undergoing radiation therapy either by enhancing tumor cell killing or by protecting normal tissues. Historically, the successful translation of radiation-effect modulators to the clinic has been hindered due to the lack of focused collaboration between academia, pharmaceutical companies and the clinic, along with limited availability of support for such ventures. The U.S. Government has been developing medical countermeasures against accidental and intentional radiation exposures to mitigate the risk and/or severity of acute radiation syndrome (ARS) and the delayed effects of acute radiation exposures (DEARE), and there is now a drug development pipeline established. Some of these medical countermeasures could potentially be repurposed for improving the outcome of radiation therapy and HRQOL of cancer patients. With the objective of developing radiation-effect modulators to improve radiotherapy, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Development Center at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), supported by the Radiation Research Program (RRP), provided funding to companies from 2011 to 2014 through the SBIR contracts mechanism. Although radiation-effect modulators collectively refer to radioprotectors, radiomitigators and radiosensitizers, the focus of this article is on radioprotection and mitigation of radiation injury. This specific SBIR contract opportunity strengthened existing partnerships and facilitated new collaborations between academia and industry. In this commentary, we assess the impact of this funding opportunity, outline the review process, highlight the organ/site-specific disease needs in the clinic for the development of radiation-effect modulators, provide a general understanding of a framework for gathering preclinical and clinical evidence to obtain regulatory approval and provide a basis for broader venture capital needs and support from pharmaceutical companies to fully capitalize on the advances made thus far in this field.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging