European Commission approves revolutionary prostate cancer drug co-developed by Czech scientist

The European Commission recently approved a new prostate cancer drug called Pluvicto, co-developed by a Czech researcher. The revolutionary treatment, designed for patients with advanced prostate cancer for whom other treatments have proved ineffective, is being administered in Czechia as part of a clinical trial at the Olomouc University Hospital.

Ladislav, who has suffered from prostate cancer for several years now, is one of the first patients in Czechia to receive the new radioactive drug. Two years ago he started hormone treatment and since February he has gradually switched to a clinical trial with Pluvicto.

The revolutionary treatment that delivers radiation to specifically targeted cancer cells was developed at the German Cancer Research Centre in Heidelberg.

Martina Benešová, a young Czech scientist was on the team. In an earlier interview for Radio Prague, she explained in what ways this differes from previous prostate cancer treatment methods:

Martina Benešová-Schäfer | Photo: Česká hlava

“One of these is that it is so-called theranostic, meaning you can use it for both diagnosis and treatment. It is also new in the way that it works for patients who already received all available therapies for prostate cancer, and despite the fact that they were resistant to all these therapies which are approved and accepted and in use, the application of endoradiotherapy with PSMA-617 works in these patients who have practically no other treatment options.”

The radioactive drug is administered to patients at the Nuclear Medicine Clinic at the Olomouc University Hospital, explains Jiří Horalík, chief radiology assistant:

“The vial containing the radiopharmaceutical is transported to us from abroad, modified by the local laboratory for intravenous injection and then administered directly into the patient’s vein using an infusion device. This only takes a few minutes but the patient has to stay in our ward for about eight hours and only then can he be discharged.”

At first glance, the clear liquid in the vial looks just like water, but it contains the radionuclide lutetium 177 and therefore has to be handled with special care, explains pharmacist Lubor Urbánek:

“When it's time to administer the drug, it is taken out of the fridge and the vial with the drug, which is shielded, is passed through a window to a laboratory, where it is further processed. We then dispense the medicine into a syringe and pass it through a second window to our colleagues in the application room.”

Lubor Urbánek with the drug Pluvicto | Photo: Andrea Skalická,  Czech Radio

The approval of the new radiopharmaceutical by the European Commission was preceded by a positive opinion from the European Medicines Agency last October. Pluvicto had previously been authorised in the UK, Canada and the US.

Although it has been approved by the European Commission, it is not yet clear when the drug will be more widely available to patients in Czechia. At the moment the drug is not covered by general health insurance and can only be administered with the approval of a reviewing physician.

Authors: Ruth Fraňková , Andrea Skalická
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