The Goldilocks of radioisotopes, just right for treating cancer

Laboratory helps produce potentially life-saving new tool

September 19, 2022

Radioisotope Opt
Actinium-225 Oak Ridge National Laboratory and U.S. Department of Energy

By Kirk Rector, program manager for the Los Alamos National Laboratory Isotope Program

Cutting across demographic and geographic lines, cancer remains the second-leading cause of death in the United States. According to the National Cancer Institute, more than one in three men and women in America will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. Of those deaths, prostate cancer claims more than 40,000 lives every year. Each person lost to cancer is a tragedy for them, their families and their communities.

But there’s a powerful new tool to reduce the harm cancer inflicts: a purple, glowing radioisotope called actinium-225, which can be attached to molecules to target cancer in the human body. Tested in worldwide clinical trials against advanced metastatic prostate cancer, the radioisotope has proven effective in eliminating cancers. Actinium-225 is produced in nature, but getting a significant amount of purified material demands an accelerator or nuclear reactor and the facilities and expertise to chemically separate out the actinium-225 from the potentially hundreds of isotopes created during production.

That’s where Los Alamos, Oak Ridge and Brookhaven national laboratories come in. As part of the Department of Energy Isotope R&D and Production Program’s Tri-Lab Research Effort to Provide Accelerator-Produced Actinium-225 for Radioimmunotherapy, these laboratories are playing a crucial role in producing this potentially life-saving nuclear medicine.

> Read the full story as it appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican.