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Cancer. 1992 Dec 15;70(12):2995-3007.

Boron neutron capture therapy for cancer. Realities and prospects.

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Department of Pathology, Ohio State University, Columbus 43210.


Boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT) is based on the nuclear reaction that occurs when a stable isotope, boron-10 (10B), is irradiated with low-energy thermal neutrons (nth) to yield (4He) alpha-particles and 7Li nuclei (10B+nth-->[11B]-->4He+7Li+2.31 MeV). The success of BNCT as a tumoricidal modality is dependent on the delivery of a sufficient quantity of 10B and nth to individual cancer cells to sustain a lethal 10B(n, alpha) 7Li reaction. The current review covered the radiobiologic considerations on which BNCT is based, including a brief discussion of microdosimetry and normal tissue tolerance. The development of tumor-localizing boron compounds was discussed, including the sulfhydryl-containing polyhedral borane, sodium borocaptate (Na2B12H11SH), and boronophenylalanine (BPA), both of which are currently being used clinically in Japan as capture agents for malignant brain tumors and melanomas, respectively. Compounds currently under evaluation, such as boronated porphyrins, nucleosides, liposomes, and monoclonal antibodies (MoAbs), were also considered. Nuclear reactors have been used as the exclusive source of neutrons for BNCT. The use of low-energy (0.025 eV) thermal neutrons and higher-energy (1-10,000 eV) epithermal beams, beam optimization, and possible alternative neutron sources (accelerators) were also discussed. Clinical studies performed in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s for the treatment of malignant brain tumors were reviewed. Current studies in Japan and future studies in Europe and the United States concerning the treatment of glioblastomas and melanomas by BNCT were discussed, as were critical issues that must be addressed if BNCT is ever to be a useful therapeutic modality.

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