Belgium’s Ion Beam Applications (IBA) and Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK CEN on 15 September announced a strategic R&D partnership to enable the production of actinium-225 (Ac-225), a novel radioisotope which has significant potential in the treatment of cancer.

Nuclear medicine has evolved considerably over recent years with the emergence of radiotheranostics, a modality which combines targeted diagnosis and therapy with radio-isotopes, offering an important alternative in the treatment of many cancers. 

Radiotheranostics is based on the use of radio-isotopes which, when they disintegrate, emit radiation that enables cancer cells to be precisely located and/or destroyed. Among these isotopes, one of the most promising is alpha-emitting Actinium-225, which kills cancer cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissues while its half-life (10 days) enables a smooth process for logistics and centralised distribution. 

By joining their unique expertise and resources, SCK CEN and IBA will be able to work towards the large-scale production of Actinium-225 for patient use. IBA said this strategic R&D partnership consists of an in-depth evaluation of the technical and economic feasibility of the project. Based on the outcome of this first phase, SCK CEN and IBA plan to undertake the construction and commissioning of a production unit on the SCK CEN site in Mol, Belgium. This initiative is also in alignment with the recent European recovery plan for Belgium – a plan in which the European Commission designated Lutetium-177 and Actinium-225 as promising isotopes.

Eric van Walle, Director General of SCK CEN, commented: “Theranostics have the potential to revolutionize the way we treat cancer. By partnering with IBA, we can use our nuclear knowhow to transform isotopes meant to become radioactive waste into therapeutic compounds. Our complementary expertise will enable us to work towards providing the greatest number of patients with the benefits of this latest generation of nuclear medicine.”

"I am particularly pleased with this unprecedented partnership between two key players with unparalleled expertise," said Pierre-Yves Dermagne, Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister. "This research partnership has promise for the future. One of the two players is recognised worldwide (SCK CEN), while the other is a worldwide leader in the particle accelerator industry (IBA). This union will make it possible to treat patients much more effectively." 

Tinne Van der Straeten, Minister of Energy, stressed the importance of the project. "Belgium wants to remain a world leader in the production of medical isotopes. Therefore, we have provided support in the framework of the European recovery plan to allow SCK CEN to innovate in the field of therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals.” Thomas Dermine, State Secretary for Recovery and Strategic Investments, noted: “This strategic R&D partnership is one of the first concrete results of the recovery plan, which allocates a total of more than €800 million additional resources to research and development."

Date: Tuesday, 21 September 2021
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