Canadian Candu produces cancer therapy isotope

22 June 2022

Lutetium-177 (Lu-177) has been produced using a new isotope production system (IPS) that was installed in unit 7 of the Bruce plant in Ontario, Canada, during a recent planned maintenance outage. It marks the first time the short-lived medical isotope has been produced in a commercial nuclear power reactor.

The isotope production system at Bruce 7 (Image: Bruce Power)

The project is an international collaboration between Bruce Power, Isogen (a joint venture between Canada's Kinectrics and France's Framatome) and Germany's ITM Isotope Technologies Munich SE.

The IPS successfully irradiated targets to produce Lu-177, a medical isotope used in targeted radionuclide therapy to treat cancers like neuroendocrine tumours and prostate cancer. The medical-grade radioisotope is used to destroy cancer cells while leaving surrounding healthy cells unaffected.

As part of commissioning activities, ytterbium-176 was successfully irradiated using the IPS, designed and installed by Isogen, to produce Lu-177. These isotopes were then sent to ITM in Germany for processing, using its proprietary manufacturing methodology and industrial scale production capacities yielding high-quality, pharmaceutical-grade no-carrier-added Lu-177.

With the first Lu-177 now produced, commissioning activities will be completed over the coming months and will be followed by commercial operations, pending final regulatory review and approval by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

ITM will receive exclusive access to the irradiation service provided by the IPS for the production of Lu-177, further expanding its capabilities of producing this high-quality isotope at a large-scale for hospitals worldwide, global partners, and ITM's own clinical pipeline of radiopharmaceuticals for hard-to-treat cancers.

Bruce Power will market the new isotope supply in an historic collaboration partnership with Saugeen Ojibway Nation (SON). The partnership project with SON, named Gamzook’aamin Aakoziwin, includes an equity stake for SON and a revenue-sharing programme that provides a direct benefit to the community.

"Bruce Power and our partners at Isogen, ITM and Saugeen Ojibway Nation are thrilled to have reached this exciting milestone, bringing our partnership project to its final phase as we complete commissioning and approach commercial operations," said James Scongack, Bruce Power's chief development officer. "Today's announcement is the culmination of years of hard work by hundreds of dedicated people and we are proud to demonstrate the power of using Bruce Power's Candu reactors to provide large-scale, reliable production of critical medical isotopes to use in the fight against cancer."

In June 2018, Bruce Power and ITG - a subsidiary of ITM - signed a Memorandum of Understanding to explore the production of Lu-177 at Bruce, which they said has the ability to meet global supply needs until 2064.

ITM subsidiary ITM Medical Isotopes GmbH signed a supply arrangement for Lu-177 with Isogen in 2020.

Bruce's Candu units already produce cobalt-60, which is used for the sterilisation of medical equipment and in a specialised form of cancer treatment called the Gamma Knife. The company is part of the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council, which aims to develop collective solutions to maintain Canada's leadership position on the global isotope stage following the shut-down in 2018 of the National Research Universal reactor after over 60 years of operation.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News