Nuclear operator Bruce Power aiming to increase production of lutetium-177

The Canadian government has announced an investment of up to CAD35m ($26.6m, €24m) for the development and production of crucial medical radioisotopes in the country.

As part of the funding, indigenous group Saugeen Ojibway Nation will collaborate with Bruce Power, which supplies 30% of Ontario’s power through its eight-unit Bruce nuclear station, to jointly produce and market new radioisotopes.

Bruce Power already supplies cobalt-60 for sterilising medical devices, but is aiming to increase production of lutetium-177 (Lu-177), which is used in advanced prostate cancer treatment.

Bruce Power partnered with the Saugeen Ojibway Nation in 2019 in the marketing of current and new radioisotopes produced through a first-of-a-kind isotope production system that was installed at Bruce Power in 2022.

The partnership, named Gamzook’aamin aakoziwin, which translates to ‘We are Teaming Up to Fight the Sickness,’ includes a revenue-sharing programme that provides a direct benefit to the community.

The isotope production system was designed and installed at Bruce Power by Isogen, a joint venture between French nuclear business Framatome and Toronto-based engineering, testing, inspection and certification company Kinectrics. It irradiates ytterbium-176 to produce lutetium-177, which is then transported to a manufacturing facility in Germany for processing and used in various clinical and commercial radiopharmaceutical cancer treatments.

Bruce Wants Next-Gen Development

“With commercial production of lutetium-177 well underway at Bruce Power, physicians and their patients worldwide now have access to a new, dependable, large-scale supply of lutetium-177 for their cancer treatments,” Isogen Group chair John D’Angelo said.

Bruce Power said the funding will ultimately enable a pan-Canadian consortium – the Canadian Medical Isotope Ecosystem (CMIE) – to accelerate the development of the next generation of novel medical radioisotopes and technologies.

“The CMIE will position Canada as a leader across all stages of the isotope production cycle, most importantly to ensure cancer patients and health care professionals have access to the critical isotopes they need, when they need them,” a statement said.

“We will be expanding production [of lutetium-177] to double it by 2024-2025,” Bruce Power chief executive Michael Rencheck was quoted as saying in media reports.

The Bruce nuclear site in Ontario has eight plants, of which medical isotopes are produced at only one. “Scalability is quite large,” Rencheck said, adding that with declining acceptance of Russian-made radioisotopes, there is room for growth.

Medical isotopes are radioactive substances used in diagnostic imaging and treatment of health conditions such as heart diseases and cancer. They are produced using nuclear reactors and particle accelerators.

Date: Saturday, 01 July 2023
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