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Canada’s particle accelerator centre, TRIUMF, and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) have completed the first joint production run of actinium-225, a rare medical isotope that shows great promise as the basis for new, cutting-edge cancer therapies.

The high-purity actinium-225, which is produced using TRIUMF’s high-energy cyclotron in Vancouver and processed at CNL’s Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario, will therefore become more widely available for use in critical clinical trials.

Actinium-225 is an alpha-emitting isotope with a short half-life of just ten days, which can be combined with a protein or antibody that specifically targets and kills cancer cells. Researchers are eager to try this targeted alpha therapy approach with a wide range of cancers but current global supplies of actinium-225 are only be enough to treat a handful of patients every year. TRIUMF Director Dr Jonathan Bagger said: “The 520MeV cyclotron at the heart of TRIUMF allows us to produce actinium-225 at a level of purity not possible with smaller cyclotrons.”

Mark Lesinski, president and CEO of CNL said the companies have now "successfully demonstrated the viability of production and separation processes," which could eventually enable hundreds of thousands of medical treatments every year across Canada and around the world. "This achievement is a major leap forward in the availability of one of the rarest medical isotopes in the world.”

Kathryn McCarthy, vice-president of Science and Technology at CNL acknowledged there is "still a long road to travel" before these treatments are generally available to the public but said "we’ve overcome a big hurdle that has prevented researchers from verifying the promising results that have been seen in early laboratory testing.”

Date: Wednesday, 30 October 2019
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