National Labs fights cancer with medical isotopes

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National Labs fights cancer with medical isotopes

by Heather Mayer, DOTmed News Reporter | September 02, 2010

"We have enough to make isotopes available to anyone who needs it," said Fisher. "Any place, at any time."

"We can produce commercially, if it comes to that," said Saed Mirzadeh, an ORNL research scientist, who is also developing the medical isotopes. "The reactor can easily supply all of the radium-223 that is needed."

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TREATING CANCER

Because of the alpha particles' ability to destroy cancerous cells without causing too much damage to healthy tissue, it's no wonder researchers are after them to develop cancer treatments and therapies. Phase 3 human trials are already taking place in Europe, and more recently in the United States, using radium-223 for both cancer pain management and preventing the spread of bone cancers.

Norwegian company Algeta and pharmaceutical giant Bayer Schering Pharma partnered to test radium-223 in human trials to treat bone metastases resulting from prostate cancer.

"We demonstrated in earlier trials that radium-223 has the ability to prolong survival with benign side effects," Thomas Ramdahl, Algeta's chief technology officer, told DOTmed News.

"Radiation that is typically used to treat cancer is either photons or electrons," explained SNM's Atcher. "Those two, while effective in many cases, are not the most ideal in terms of radiologic biology characteristics. Alpha [particles] have a much more destructive power than a photon or electron does. If you can deliver the alpha particle to the site you want to treat you have a much higher likelihood of achieving a therapeutic effect."

Radium-223 targets the bone, and in effect can treat pain from bone cancers and also "try to knock down the occurrence of skeletal diseases," explained Fisher.

In advanced stages of certain cancers, especially breast and prostate, the cancers metastasize into the bones.

While radium-223 is a "bone seeker," Fisher explained, thorium-227, which decays into radium-223, can be used to treat any part of the body except bones.

"Some researchers think if you link thorium-227 to a delivery system you will get all of the advantages of radium-223 created at that site," he said. "It's an in-vivo generator for radium-223....If you really want to deliver these isotopes to soft-tissue tumors - colon or melanoma - the delivery vehicle holds on to the isotope and takes it where you want it. Thorium is the answer for every cancer except bone cancer."

Ramdahl explained that Algeta's trial uses thorium-227 to deliver radium-223 to other tumor sites in the body.

"We think that our alpha particles have great promise in cancer treatment," he said.