Actinium-225/ Photo Courtesy Oak Ridge National Laboratory and U.S. Department of Energy
BY KIRK RECTOR
LANL 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.