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“STARBURST” Study Could Transform Cancer Care 

Could cancer become as easy to treat as it is to diagnose? A Carilion Clinic physician is the U.S. lead for the international STARBURST clinical trial working to determine just that.

Medical Director of Molecular Imaging for Carilion and STARBURST Principal Investigator, Jackson Kiser, M.D., is also the first worldwide to enroll a patient in the study for hard-to-treat cancers. The goal of the study is to use emerging technology in a new way to treat a broad variety of cancerous tumors. In other words, studying the application of precision medicine through targeted radiation.

With this trial of “theranostics” – a combination of nuclear medicine therapeutics and diagnostics-the Australia – headquartered precision medicine company Telix Pharmaceuticals is leading the charge.

“This is potentially groundbreaking stuff,” said Dr. Kiser.

The trial is testing an investigational PET scan imaging agent developed by Telix, TLX250-CDx, to find out if it can be used to diagnose cancers that are known to express CAIX, a protein receptor found on the surface of several solid tumors. More specifically, they’re assessing whether this agent can identify cancerous cells as proof-of-concept for therapy.

Dr. Kiser described the connection between cancer cell receptors and targeted theranostic agents as “a lock and key kind of thing.”

“Many of these cancers that we’re trying to image are very difficult to treat,” said Dr. Kiser. “We’re hoping that these have this receptor and therefore we might have a treatment for these patients.”

For cancer patients, that could mean treatments with fewer unpleasant or debilitating side effects. And for patients with hard-to-treat cancers, it can mean even more.

Telix has already seen positive results with certain kidney, breast and bladder cancers. TLX250-CDx was the subject of their global phase 3 ZIRCON study in clear cell renal cell carcinoma – the most common and aggressive form of kidney cancer – which reported highly positive results in Nov. 2022.

The STARBURST trial focuses on solid tumors in a broader range of cancers:

  • Breast
  • Cervical
  • Colorectal
  • Gastric
  • Esophageal
  • Head and neck
  • Lung
  • Ovarian
  • Pancreatic
  • Vulvar

The STARBURST trial is just one example of Carilion’s commitment to collaboration with innovative industry partners and, in this case, the well-established partnership with Blue Ridge Cancer Care (BRCC). BRCC’s role in the STARBURST trial is to refer patients to Carilion who may be eligible to participate. That collaboration results in a seamless connection for patients between their BRCC care team and the surgical, diagnostic and treatment experts at Carilion.

“If we can identify that a cancer has that receptor, then we may be able to trade out the radioactive material from enabling pictures to something more powerful for treatment,” said Dr. Kiser. “This might give these patients another option to prolong their life and maybe even cure them. I’m very honored to have been chosen to be the principal investigator for the entire research project in this country.”

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*TLX250-CDx is a Telix Pharmaceuticals investigational product, which has not received a marketing authorization in any jurisdiction. Views are the investigator’s own.  

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