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Cancer-fighting treatment gets boost from Isotope Production Facility

New capability expands existing program, creates treatment product in quantity.
April 13, 2012
Medical Isotope Work Moves Cancer Treatment Agent Forward

Medical Isotope Work Moves Cancer Treatment Agent Forward - Los Alamos scientist Meiring Nortier holds a thorium foil test target for the proof-of-concept production experiments. Research indicates that it will be possible to match current annual, worldwide production of Ac-225 in just two to five days of operations using the accelerator at Los Alamos and analogous facilities at Brookhaven.

Alpha particles are energetic enough to destroy cancer cells but are unlikely to move beyond a tightly controlled target region and destroy healthy cells.

Isotope Production Facility produces cancer-fighting actinium

Isotope cancer treatment research at LANL
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Isotope cancer treatment research at LANL

A new medical isotope project at LANL shows promise for rapidly producing major quantities of a new cancer-treatment agent, actinium 225 (Ac-225).

Using proton beams, the Lab and its partner Brookhaven National Laboratory could match current annual worldwide production of the isotope in just a few days, solving critical shortages of this therapeutic isotope that attacks cancer cells.

A collaboration between LANL, Brookhaven, and Oak Ridge national laboratories is developing a plan for full-scale production and stable supply of Ac-225.

Alpha particles are energetic enough to destroy cancer cells

Ac-225 emits alpha radiation. Alpha particles are energetic enough to destroy cancer cells but are unlikely to move beyond a tightly controlled target region and destroy healthy cells.

Alpha particles are stopped in their tracks by a layer of skin—or even an inch or two of air.

Economically viable supply of Ac-225 is lacking

One of the primary barriers to wider use of Ac-225 has been the lack of an economically viable supply.

Scientists at the Lab's Isotope Production Facility (IPF) recently completed a successful research and development project in which they explored the accelerator-based production of the isotope.

Producing medical imaging isotopes is a primary mission

Since 2005, a primary mission for IPF has been production of medical imaging isotopes such as strontium-82 for positron emission tomography, known as PET scans. In addition to medical imaging applications, IPF has had the mission of making isotopes available for

  • national security,
  • environmental studies and
  • a variety of industrial and R&D applications.

The Ac-225 work is a first and important step toward the addition of a range of IPF-produced isotopes for medical therapy applications.


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