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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A promising new cancer treatment is being made more effective through a new chemical compound created at the University of Tennessee.

 Dr. George Kabalka, a UT-Knoxville chemistry professor, said the new UT compound enables doctors for the first time to image exactly how an experimental cancer treatment known as boron neutron capture therapy, or BNCT, affects tumors in the brain.

 Kabalka also heads basic imaging research at UT Medical Center here.

 In BNCT, a cancer-killing drug is prepared with the element boron which accumulates into the patient’s tumor. The tumor is then bathed in neutrons, which destroy only cells that have absorbed the boron.

 The UT compound allows doctors to use a PET (positron emission tomography) scanner to determine where in the brain the tumor-destroying, boron-neutron combination collects, and target the area more effectively for treatment, Kabalka said.

 “The problem is that physicians have had no way to tell where the boron is going in the human being,” Kabalka said.

 “What we did was develop the first method to enable physicians to tell where the boron has gone and how effectively it has localized in the tumor.

 “This now enables therapists to design a treatment directly aiming the neutrons at the boron-containing tumor cell.”

 Kabalka said the new compound was recently used to trace boron accumulation in brain tumors of two patients at UT Medical Center. One of the patients was chosen to be treated in a BNCT clinical trial at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., he said.

 “We are very excited about the potential for this new compound to make BNCT a more effective treatment not only for brain cancer but perhaps other cancers as well,” Kabalka said.

 Contact: Dr. George Kabalka (423-974-3260)