Leading Canadian laboratories collaborate to produce Actinium-225, a rare medical isotope with the potential to revolutionize the fight against untreatable forms of cancer
TRIUMF, Canada’s particle accelerator centre, and Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology organization, are pleased to announce that they have agreed to pursue a strategic partnership around the commercial production of Actinium-225, a rare medical isotope that has the potential to serve as the basis of new ground-breaking cancer treatments.
An alpha-emitting isotope with a short half-life, Actinium-225 can be combined with a protein or antibody that specifically targets cancer cells, creating a revolutionary treatment that is extremely effective at killing cancer cells without doing damage to surrounding, healthy cells.
Currently, the annual supply of Actinium-225 from global sources enables an extremely limited number of patient treatments, which is why the isotope is nicknamed “the rarest drug on Earth.” 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, which is expected to increase global supplies to levels that could permit hundreds of thousands of treatments every year.
“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,” commented Kathryn Hayashi, Chief Executive Officer of TRIUMF Innovations, the laboratory’s commercialization arm. “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.”
“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,” commented Mark Lesinski, President and CEO of CNL. “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. 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.”
Known as targeted alpha therapy, the use of Actinium-225 or other alpha-emitting isotopes to battle cancer has garnered growing interest in the scientific community in recent years. In laboratory testing, this form of treatment has shown remarkable results, destroying cancer cells efficiently by breaking bonds in cancer cell DNA within close proximity to the isotope. Researchers simply couple the alpha-emitting isotope with a protein or antibody that specifically targets cancer cells. This molecule seeks out and binds with the cancer cell, allowing the alpha radiation to attack it. With a short half-life of ten days, the Actinium then harmlessly decays without accumulating in a patient’s body.
“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.”
Given the strong market demand for Actinium-225, 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.
“The global shortage of this isotope has really restricted research in this area, which delays and puts at risk the availability of effective treatment technology,” commented Dr. Kathryn McCarthy, Vice-President of CNL Research and Development. “It is our hope that this partnership will result in a leap forward in this research, accelerating the development of a unique technology that can dramatically improve the health of Canadians, and lead to other advancements in alpha-related technology.”
In addition to the partnership agreement, CNL and TRIUMF 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 from April 1 – 5, 2019 at the Fairmont Château Laurier in Ottawa. For more information on TAT11, please visit www.tat11.com or follow the event on Twitter @tat_11_2019.