Areva plans commercial lead-212 plant

18 February 2014

Areva has announced the selection of Caen in northwest France as the location for its planned industrial-scale lead-212 (Pb-212) production facility. Clinical trials for using the radioisotope for cancer treatment are underway.

Areva Med, the company's subsidiary for the development of cancer treatments, plans to build the plant to "provide an industrial production capacity" to complement the Maurice Tubiana facility in Bessines in western France. Areva said, "The construction of this facility will be confirmed following important scientific programs underway." The first commercial production is planned for 2020.

Areva president and CEO Luc Oursel said, "This choice illustrates our confidence in the future of Areva Med and our determination to create powerful and targeted treatments as quickly as possible."

The Maurice Tubiana facility was inaugurated in November 2013 and provides sufficient amounts of high-purity Pb-212 for clinical development. The facility recovers the isotope from thorium-232.

Alpha radioimmunotherapy

Pb-212 is a promising agent for use in the field of targeted alpha therapy (TAT) or alpha radioimmunotherapy. The technique would involve Pb-212 being attached to an antibody destined to bind to a unique antigen expressed by cancer cells. This method reduces radiation dose to normal tissues by delivering lethal doses of radiation directly to cancer cells.

Phase I clinical trials using Pb-212 to confirm the safety of treatment in patients began at the University of Alabama in the USA in July 2011. Areva said that "several new scientific partnerships are currently being studied with a dozen institutions."

Pb-212 has a half-life of 10.6 hours. Its decay chain includes the short-lived isotopes bismuth-212, polonium-212 and thallium-208, which all emit either alpha or beta during decay over about another hour. The end of the decay chain is the stable element Pb-208.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News