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161Tb-labeled radiopharmaceuticals targeting mucin receptors for treatment of pancreatic cancer

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Pancreatic cancer is the is the deadliest cancer worldwide with a 98% loss‐of‐life expectancy. When diagnosed, 80% of patients have tumors that are in incurable stages, while for those who undergo surgery, 80% of patients will present with local or distant metastasis. To treat pancreatic cancer efficiently, there is an urgent need for the development of new therapeutic molecules to enlarge and improve the treatment options for patients. Apart from external high energy X-ray beam therapy, Targeted RadioNuclide Therapy (TRNT) is another approach to deliver radiation to cancer cells. TRNT is distributed within the body by the vascular system and allows targeted irradiation of a primary tumor and all its metastases, resulting in substantially less collateral damage to normal tissues as compared to external radiotherapy. It is a systemic cancer therapy, tackling systemic spread of the disease, which is the cause of death in the vast majority of cancer patients. TRNT with radionuclides with short-range emission (alpha, beta, Auger) is particularly of interest to target microscopic metastases in the adjuvant or pseudo-adjuvant setting.

The overall aim of this project is to develop and to pre-clinically evaluate 161Tb-based radiopharmaceuticals for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. Up to now, only few studies have used 161Tb for the evaluation of its therapeutic potential which makes it an innovative radionuclide. mAbs and Nanobodies (Nbs), which are antigen-binding fragments derived from heavy-chain-only antibodies occurring naturally in Camelid species, will be used as vector molecules. Nbs bind their antigens very fast and specifically with high affinity in vivo, whereas unbound Nbs are rapidly cleared from the blood by the kidneys. Physiological uptake of Nbs in liver and in abdomen is limited. Therefore, Nbs can be considered as ideal vectors for in vivo imaging and radionuclide therapy.

To achieve the overall objective of the project, optimization of the conjunction and radiolabeling methods has to be established. Thereafter, the stability, specificity, affinity, degree of internalization and cytotoxicity of the 161Tb-based radiopharmaceuticals will be investigated in vitro using appropriate cell models. Additionally, biodistribution and stability of the 161Tb-based radiopharmaceuticals will be evaluated in vivo. Finally, the therapeutic potential of the 161Tb-based radiopharmaceuticals will be evaluated in tumor bearing mouse models.

The minimum diploma level of the candidate needs to be

  • Master of sciences

The candidate needs to have a background in

  • Bio-engineering
  • Chemistry
  • Pharmaceutical sciences, biomedical sciences, biochemistry, bio-engineering

Estimated duration

4 years

Expert group


SCK CEN Mentor

Ooms Maarten
moomsa [at]
+32 (0)14 33 32 83

SCK CEN Co-mentor

Vermeulen Koen
kvermeul [at]
+32 (0)14 33 88 09


Cleeren Frederik
frederik.cleeren [at]


Dewilde Maarten
maarten.dewilde [at]