TRIUMF, Canada’s particle accelerator centre, and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) announced on 27 September that they have agreed to pursue a strategic partnership around the commercial production of the medical isotope, Actinium-225, as the basis of new cancer treatments. Actinium-225 is an alpha-emitting isotope with a short half-life that can be combined with a protein or antibody that specifically targets cancer cells.

Currently, the annual supply of Actinium-225 from global sources enables an extremely limited number of patient treatments, which has led to the isotope being described as “the rarest drug on Earth”, the announcement said. Under   the partnership, TRIUMF’s high energy proton beam will be used to manufacture the isotope, and CNL’s nuclear-licensed handling and production facilities will be used to process the material, which is expected to significantly increase global supplies.

The agreement is designed to establish unparalleled production capacity of the isotope using TRIUMF’s high energy proton beam and CNL’s handling and processing facilities. Among other objectives, the organizations will collaborate to develop and refine the production processes, and to identify research and distribution partners for Actinium-225 and other alpha-emitting isotopes.

“This agreement will allow TRIUMF to leverage one of our core assets, the 520MeV cyclotron, and our scientists and engineers, to produce this isotope on a scale that would enable more clinical development to make treatment available for patients with a wide spectrum of cancers that we can’t fight effectively using today’s technologies,” commented Kathryn Hayashi, CEO of TRIUMF Innovations, which is responsible for the laboratory’s commercialization activities. CNL President and CEO Mark Lesinski said: “Given the complementary facilities and expertise at both CNL and TRIUMF, this partnership is a perfect fit, and could lead to meaningful improvements in the lives of cancer patients.”

The use of Actinium-225 or other alpha-emitting isotopes is known as targeted alpha therapy. “While current forms of radiation treatments target all cells in the vicinity of a tumor, both healthy and cancerous, targeted-alpha-therapy focuses the treatment exclusively on the cancerous or unhealthy cells,” explained Dr. Jonathan Bagger, Director of TRIUMF. “This limits the overall radiation dose a patient may receive, which results in faster recovery times and better patient outcomes.”

CNL and TRIUMF also recently announced that they will co-host the 11th Targeted-Alpha-Therapy Symposium (TAT11), a global forum for academic and industry leaders to meet and discuss the latest technical, regulatory and clinical developments in targeted radiopharmaceutical therapy. The event will be held in April 2019 in Ottawa.