Brookhaven Lab made promising medical isotopes link to treating cancer

June 06, 2023 | Metallurgical Lab

Thanks to a recent upgrade to the medical isotope facilities at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, actinium-225 (Ac-225), an isotope that shows great promise for treating cancer, can now be produced, purified, and shipped ready for use directly from the Lab. The first shipment left Brookhaven in mid-March.

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“This upgrade will streamline the overall production and distribution of Ac-225 to research centers by eliminating the need to ship material off site for final processing,” said Cathy Cutler, Director of Medical Isotope Research & Production (MIRP) at Brookhaven Lab.

The promise of Ac-225 stems from the way this radioactive isotope decays. It emits alpha particles, which can deliver a lethal punch to cancerous cells over a short distance. Attaching Ac-225 to molecules that target tumors could potentially kill cancer cells without harming surrounding tissue. Ac-225 can also be used to generate bismuth-213, another alpha-emitter.

Brookhaven’s new AP hot cells, completed in March, have doubled the number of Ac-225 processing sites for DOE’s Isotope Program. This expanded processing capacity provides redundancy so Brookhaven and ORNL can serve as backups for each other.

 There are clear benefits in having both target irradiation and hot cells for processing at one laboratory. It establishes a more efficient path for producing larger Ac-225 batch sizes by removing the logistical challenges inherent in involving multiple labs and transporting targets.

“Now we can irradiate the targets and process them right here at Brookhaven so that Ac-225 can be shipped directly to research centers,” Cutler said.

The hope is that this accelerator-produced supply of Ac-225 will advance the development of promising cancer treatments—and ultimately support the market demands of therapies that get approved.

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