Durban — The University of KwaZulu-Natal’s nuclear medicine head, Professor Mariza Vorster, received an international award for innovative prostate cancer therapy.
Vorster won the Maurits W. Geerlings 2023 Next Generation Award for Outstanding Research and Contributions to Actinium-225 Radiopharmaceuticals.
She received the award in Munich, Germany, from the International Centers for Precision Oncology Foundation (ICPO) which is a non-profit organisation established in 2019 under German law for leading international medical practitioners and life sciences entrepreneurs.
Vorster was responsible for bringing the innovative cancer therapy for the management of prostate cancer known as Ac225 Prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) therapy, to KZN where it is administered at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common malignant tumours in men around the world.
“Ac225 PSMA is a form of radionuclide therapy, which delivers alpha particles close to the cancer cell's DNA. The radiation emitted by these alpha particles destroys the tumour DNA, causing shrinkage and preventing further or regrowth of cancer cells. (In some instances, all of the cancer cells are destroyed),” Vorster said.
This effective and safe therapy also selectively targets cancer cells that over-express the PSMA receptor leaving normal tissues mostly unaffected.
“The therapy is injected within minutes as an outpatient treatment. Patients respond very well even when this is provided as a last resort treatment and suffer minimal side effects (which mainly consist of a dry mouth). Prior to treatment, patients are imaged with Ga-68-PSMA PET/CT which enables us to select patients who are likely to respond to this form of therapy. We follow their treatment responses up in the same way,” Vorster explained.
Vorster qualified as a nuclear medicine physician in 2010 at the University of Pretoria. She obtained her doctoral degree from that university in 2014 for her research on the use of 68Ga-citrate PET in indeterminate lung lesions, making her the first female nuclear physician with a PhD in South Africa. She is an NRF-rated scientist who has authored and co-authored more than 100 peer-reviewed publications, including several chapters in textbooks.
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