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Leukemia patients turn to nuclear

September 4, 2018

German researchers say targeted alpha therapy can provide hope for men with prostate cancer by using a nuclear isotope.

Their findings were published in the October issue of The Journal of Nuclear Medicine, in an article that concluded that using the isotope actinium-225 “is tolerable and presents promising antitumor activity” and that repeated treatments “may lead to continuing tumor control.”

Actinium-225 is also being used with great success in helping patients newly diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

“Actinium-225, an isotope of the element actinium, which is usually found in uranium ores, is proving effective in curing – not just treating – myeloid leukemia,” USA Today reported in May.

Oak Ridge National Labs (ORNL) is the only source for Actinium-225, which has been found to save lives in clinical trials.

Actinium is a byproduct of Uranium-233, which the United States produced for ORNL’s Molten Salt Reactor Experiment in the 1960s. Researchers at Oak Ridge are using waste that has sat in steel barrels for decades to obtain the isotope.

The cancer was previously treatable in young patients only. That is a problem since the average age diagnosis is 67 years old. The new therapy using Actinium-225, has successfully treated elderly patients, according to Oak Ridge nuclear medical scientist Saed Mirzadeh, who added that some patients went into remission after only one treatment.

Oak Ridge researchers also say that the isotope could be used to treat prostate cancer and brain tumors. Multiple clinical trials are taking place in Europe for those cancers, but there are currently no such trials in North America.

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