Nuclear researchers produce the rarest drug on Earth

In September, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and TRIUMF announced they were teaming up on the commercial production of what’s been called “the rarest drug on earth.”

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. It has shown promise in experimental uses on late stage cancer patients to kills cancer cells.

Each year, the entire world only makes an amount equal to the weight of a few grains of sand.

The TRIUMF cyclotron centre in Vancouver had been discarding substantial amounts of Ac-225 for years, unaware of its potential.

Under terms of the partnership, TRIUMF’s high energy proton beam will be used to manufacture the isotope, while CNL’s nuclear-licensed handling and production facilities will be used to process the material.

The partnership could see an increase of hundreds of thousands of treatments globally, according to Triumf.

“We are delighted to partner with CNL on this important initiative, which has the potential to transform the lives of people who suffer from untreatable cancers,” said Kathryn Hayashi, Chief Executive Officer of TRIUMF Innovations, the laboratory’s commercialization arm, in a statement.

“This agreement will allow TRIUMF to leverage one of our core assets, the 520 MeV 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.”

“With over one billion medical treatments conducted using isotopes produced at the Chalk River Laboratories, CNL has served as a global leader in nuclear medicine for decades,” said Mark Lesinski, President and CEO of CNL, in a statement. “We view this agreement with TRIUMF as a natural evolution of this work, which will require industry-tested proficiencies in target manufacturing, radiochemistry, radioisotope analysis, and nuclear and chemical by-product management.

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.

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