Canadian organisations to produce medical isotope

28 September 2018

Canadian particle accelerator centre TRIUMF and nuclear science and technology organisation Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) have agreed to pursue a strategic partnership around the commercial production of medical radioisotope actinium-225 - nicknamed "the rarest drug on Earth".

CNL's Chalk River Laboratories (Image: CNL)

Ac-225 is an alpha-emitting isotope with a short half-life which can be combined with a protein or antibody that specifically targets cancer cells, creating a revolutionary treatment that is extremely effective at killing cancer cells without doing damage to surrounding, healthy cells. This approach is known as targeted alpha therapy. However, supplies of the radioisotope currently support only an extremely limited number of patient treatments, according to CNL, hence the isotope's nickname.

The partnership will see TRIUMF’s high energy proton beam used to manufacture the isotope, with the material processed by CNL’s nuclear-licensed handling and production facilities. This is expected to increase global supplies to levels that could permit hundreds of thousands of treatments every year.

Kathryn Hayashi, CEO of TRIUMF Innovations, the laboratory’s commercialisation arm, said the partnership has the potential to transform the lives of people who suffer from "untreatable" cancers. "This agreement will allow TRIUMF to leverage one of our core assets, the 520MeV cyclotron, and our scientists and engineers, to produce this isotope on a scale that would enable more clinical development to make treatment available for patients with a wide spectrum of cancers that we can’t fight effectively using today’s technologies," she said.

CNL president and CEO Mark Lesinski, said the agreement with TRIUMF was a "natural evolution" of the organisation's decades of experience in nuclear medicine production. "Given the complementary facilities and expertise at both CNL and TRIUMF, this partnership is a perfect fit," he said.

Given the strong market demand for Ac-225, the agreement is designed to establish unparalleled production capacity of the isotope using TRIUMF’s high energy proton beam and CNL’s handling and processing facilities, the organisations said. Among other objectives, the CNL and TRIUMF will collaborate to develop and refine the production processes, and to identify research and distribution partners for Ac-225 and other alpha-emitting isotopes.

TRIUMF, located in Vancouver, is a national centre owned and operated as a joint venture by a consortium of universities, with funding from the National Research Council of Canada.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News