‘One of the rarest medical isotopes in the world’: Canadian orgs partner to advance cancer research

Two Canadian nuclear medicine organizations have teamed up to produce what they call the “rarest drug on Earth.”

Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL) and TRIUMF, the country’s particle accelerator center have successfully produced actinium-225—a rare isotope that can be used for novel cancer therapy treatments, according to an announcement from the organizations.

“Together, CNL and TRIUMF have now successfully demonstrated the viability of our production and separation processes, which could eventually enable hundreds of thousands of medical treatments every year across Canada and around the world,” Mark Lesinski, president and CEO of CNL, said in the announcement. “This achievement is a major leap forward in the availability of one of the rarest medical isotopes in the world.”

Actinium-255 can be combined with a protein or antibody designed to target and kill cancer cells. It’s short half-life of 10 days allows it to decay without depositing in a patient’s body—a treatment known as targeted alpha therapy.

While the approach has shown potential in early studies, current global supply of the isotope would only be enough to treat a “handful” of patients each year.

The teams believe this is a “major milestone” in making the radioisotope more widely available for clinical trials.

“There is still a long road to travel before these treatments are generally available to the public, but we’ve overcome a big hurdle that has prevented researchers from verifying the promising results that have been seen in early laboratory testing,” said Kathryn McCarthy, vice-president of science and technology at CNL.