Dr. Paul M. Busse of Beth Israel Deaconess and Harvard Medical School calls NCT promising. "We are encouraged by our clinical results thus far and also by those of our colleagues in Europe and Japan," he said. "The new [facility] at MIT is second to none as is the research team assembled at MIT and Harvard to do this work."
Harling directed the design and construction of the new Fission Converter Epithermal Neutron Irradiation Facility. Housed in MIT's research reactor, it replaces a facility in the same location that had been used for 15 years. Busse is director of the clinical aspects of the research. Robert G. Zamenhof (MIT Ph.D. 1977), currently at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, presently heads the project's medical physics component.
In 1999 the team concluded a Phase I clinical trial of NCT for the cancers that are the focus of the current work. Phase I trials aim to determine the safety of the technique and involve a process of gradual dose increase to determine the maximum safe dose of radiation.
One of the current trials again focuses on GBM and on melanoma in the central nervous system. This trial combines elements of both Phase I and II trials. Phase II trials are designed to determine the benefits of the experimental treatment at the dose levels established in Phase I. A separate Phase II trial is under way for melanoma on the extremities. These trials are sponsored by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health.
NCT involves a drug and irradiation with neutrons. It is unique because it combines a biological and physical targeting of dose. The drug, which contains boron-10, is designed to concentrate preferentially in tumor cells. The patient is then exposed to a specially designed beam of "epithermal" neutrons.