International collaboration secures radioisotope supplies

15 October 2019

Research reactors in Canada and the Netherlands will work together to create a dual supply of the medical isotope iodine-125 (I-125), McMaster University and NRG have announced. The collaboration is a response to a worldwide shortage of the product in 2017.

Iodine-125 has a half-life of 60 days and is used in brachytherapy for prostate and brain cancers, as well as in diagnostics and radioimmunoassays.

"With one of the three major suppliers ceasing its production of I-125, and the subsequent shutdown of another research reactor, we recognised that, together, we could address the shortage crisis and ensure a steady supply of this life-saving treatment," said Chris Heysel, director of nuclear operations and facilities at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. "NRG also saw the impact to patients and our collaboration began. We immediately started a focused assessment of the safety, technical and regulatory requirements needed to bring the project to fruition."

Brachytherapy using I-125 involves fixing an aqueous solution of the radioisotope to a substrate which is encapsulated in small titanium 'seeds', about the size of a grain of rice. These seeds can be located exactly around the tumour. Brachytherapy with I-125 is an established treatment for prostate cancer.

The collaboration will see MNR and NRG offer a dual supply of high quality I-125 for use in brachytherapy, through a single point of contact. This, they say, will make for a seamless and uninterruptable supply of a high-quality and reproducible product, providing an effective and controlled therapy to physicians around the world. Production under the collaboration is to begin in 2020.

The McMaster Nuclear Reactor is a multi-purpose research resource that provides neutrons for medical isotope production and scientific research. Nuclear service provider NRG manages the High Flux Reactor at Petten, which is owned by the European Union.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News