Targeting the Cholecystokinin-B Receptor for Imaging and Early Detection of Pancreatic Cancer and Precancerous Lesions

Categories:  “Cancer Therapeutics

Reference #: 2020-043

OTC Contact: Ruchika Nijhara, Ph.D., MBA, CLP (Directory Information | Send a Message)


Survival from pancreatic cancer remains extremely poor, in part because this malignancy is not diagnosed in the early stages, and pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) lesions are not seen on routine radiographic imaging. Georgetown researchers showed that cholecystokinin-B receptor (CCK-BR) becomes over-expressed in these lesions and thus has the potential to be used as a target for early detection. This technical innovation discloses a method of detecting the presence of a pancreatic lesion in vivo through a biodegradable fluorescent polyplex nanoparticle (NP) that selectively targets the CCK-BR. The NP can be conjugated with a fluorophore or radioactive molecule and with imaging machines diagnose the presence of precancerous lesions.


Georgetown researchers have developed a novel CCK-BR-based nanoparticle that specifically targets pancreatic lesions and can be used to screen high-risk subjects for pancreatic cancer. This breaking new ground technology brings relevant progress to PanIN lesions detection, enabling early cancer diagnosis through a tissue specificity approach.


  • Potential clinical use to screen high-risk individuals for pancreatic cancer
  • Promising approach to search for metastases and cancer treatment responses
  • Conceivable loading of the polyplex nanoparticle with gene chemotherapy, or other agents to prevent the development of cancer from the precancerous PanINs lesions


  • Unique technology that allows early detection of PanINs lesions
  • Target and tissue-specific approach
  • CCK-BR-targeted NP has been used to deliver gastrin siRNA or other payloads to the PanIN lesions as a therapeutic

Stage of Development

Studies are being conducted on the development of this imaging tool for screening humans at high risk of pancreatic cancer to enable early cancer detection.

Patent Status



Jill P. Smith, M.D.

Steven Stern, Ph.D.