Radiation Applications

Radioisotope Supply / NRG Joins Forces With University To Overcome Shortages

By David Dalton
15 October 2019

Unique collaboration is ‘a sustainable emergency solution’
NRG Joins Forces With University To Overcome Shortages
The high-flux research reactor at Petten in the Netherlands. Photo courtesy NRG.
The operators of research reactors in Canada and the Netherlands are collaborating to provide the radioisotope radioiodine (I-125), which is used for the treatment of various types of cancers.

In a joint statement McMaster University and the Nuclear Research and Consultancy Group (NRG) said the collaboration is unique and discussions were escalated by a recent global shortage of the life-saving treatment.

McMaster University, in Ontario, has a 5-MW (thermal) pool-type reactor that has been operating since 1959. NRG operates the 45-MW (thermal) high-flux research reactor at Petten.

The statement said an estimated 80% of people who suffer cancer will receive some form of radiotherapy. “A shortage of isotopes a couple of years ago clearly showed the vulnerability of a system which relies on only a few manufacturers worldwide,” said Coen Rasch, a radiologist-oncologist at Leiden University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and chairman of the Dutch Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology. “The field of short-running isotopes like I-125 is the first to suffer in such a situation,” he said.

The shortage required “an acute and sustainable emergency solution”, the statement said. Canada and the Netherlands responded with their collaboration.

I-125 is a radioisotope of iodine. For cancer treatment a liquid solution of I-125 is fixed to a substrate, which is encapsulated in titanium “seeds” about the size of a grain of rice. These seeds can be located exactly around the tumour, a process also known as brachytherapy.

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