Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry

Division of Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Klaus Kopka

Negative ion 32 MeV cyclotron ...

The Division Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry designs targeted radiotracers for the molecular imaging and diagnosis of cancer by means of positron emission tomography (PET) and by the en-vogue hybrid technologies PET/CT and PET/MRT, which are used for the highly sensitive non-invasive imaging of biological processes at the molecular level. The focus is the visualisation of rather early disease states or early inspection of treatment response after chemotherapy, radiation therapy or targeted internal radiation therapy (radioendotherapy) in vivo. One main task is thus the development of novel PET radiopharmaceuticals targeting receptors, transport systems and enzymes relevant in early tumorigenesis and tumor progression to establish a tool for improving the clinical management of patients suffering from tumors, thereby tending to the identification or even the prevention of tumor dissemination.

Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry reverts to interdisciplinary fields, such as nuclear chemistry using cyclotrons (figure) and radionuclide generators. Sub-fields such as labelling chemistry, medicinal chemistry, organic and solid-phase chemistry are further required. To fulfil the translation of new PET tracers into the clinical scenario special laboratory environments are needed to set up Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP)-compliant automated radiosyntheses in highly sophisticated clean rooms which comply with radiation protection and also with the pharmaceuticals act.

Notably, the Division Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry will focus on the development of peptidyl and non-peptidyl tracers, i.a. radiolabelled with PET-compatible radionuclides, such as F-18, Ga-68 and others, targeting enzymes such as matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and the prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) as well as membrane-associated receptors and biological targets playing key roles in neoangiogenesis. The tailor-made diagnostic tracers should be designed in such a way that they can also be used as therapeutic pharmaceuticals which bear corresponding particle emitters such as Y-90, Lu-177 and others (i.e. “in vivo theranostic approach”, already established for Ga-68- and Lu-177-DOTATOC). We speculate that the non-invasive in vivo visualisation of these biological targets by those target-affine radiotracers will elucidate still unsolved clinical oncological questions, in any case for the patient’s benefit.

Looking at aforementioned aspects the Division Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry fits elegantly into the context of the research program Imaging and Radiooncology (FSE). The motivation is to directly link basic research expertise to the GMP-compliant production of corresponding PET tracers for clinical research, as is the case for [18F]FDG, [18F]FLT, [18F]FET, Na[18F]F, [68Ga]Ga-DOTATOC and [68Ga]Ga-PSMA, to support cancer research at DKFZ. In this connexion a close cooperation with the clinical cooperation unit Nuclear Medicine is indispensable.


Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Klaus Kopka
Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry (E030)
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Im Neuenheimer Feld 280
69120 Heidelberg
Tel: +49 6221 42 2432

Selected Publications

  • Benešová, M., Bauder-Wüst, U., Schäfer, M., Klika, K.D., Mier, W., Haberkorn, U., Kopka, K., Eder, M.: Linker Modification Strategies To Control the Prostate-Specific Membrane Antigen (PSMA)-Targeting and Pharmacokinetic Properties of DOTA-Conjugated PSMA Inhibitors. J Med Chem. 59(5), 1761-75, 2016.
  • Liolios, C., Schäfer, M., Haberkorn, U., Eder, M., Kopka, K.: Novel Bispecific PSMA/GRPr Targeting Radioligands with Optimized Pharmacokinetics for Improved PET Imaging of Prostate Cancer. Bioconjug Chem. 27(3), 737-51, 2016.
  • Benešová, M., Schäfer, M., Bauder-Wüst, U., Afshar-Oromieh, A., Kratochwil, C., Mier, W., Haberkorn, U., Kopka, K., Eder, M.: Preclinical Evaluation of a Tailor-Made DOTA-Conjugated PSMA Inhibitor with Optimized Linker Moiety for Imaging and Endoradiotherapy of Prostate Cancer. J Nucl Med. 56(6), 914-20, 2015.
  • Kratochwil, C., Giesel, F.L., Eder, M., Afshar-Oromieh, A., Benešová, M., Mier, W., Kopka, K., Haberkorn, U.: [177Lu]Lutetium-labelled PSMA ligand-induced remission in a patient with metastatic prostate cancer. Eur J Nucl Med Mol Imaging 42(6), 987-8, 2015.