Radiation Applications

US / Serva Energy Develops Reactor-Based Production Method For Crucial Radioisotope

By David Dalton
13 July 2023

Cancer-killing actinium-225 in ‘ultra-high demand’

Serva Energy Develops Reactor-Based Production Method For Crucial Radioisotope
Advanced-stage cancer in remission after three doses of Actinium-225 therapy. Research originally published in the December 2016 issue of the Journal of Nuclear Medicine. Courtesy Serva Energy.

US-based Serva Energy has developed a reactor-based production method to ramp up the supply of actinium-225 (Ac-225), a cancer-killing radioisotope the company said is in “ultra-high demand” by oncology researchers and pharmaceutical companies developing targeted alpha therapies (TATs) – a promising step forward in the fight against cancer.

The Arizona company said the milestone marks the first time a commercial entity has employed a conventional nuclear research reactor to produce the life-saving TAT radioisotope – allowing for dozens of existing research reactors around the world to collaborate with Serva on increasing production of Ac-225 without huge capital investments or delays for construction.

According to Serva, the US Department of Energy estimates that basic research needs for Ac-225 cancer treatments would require a global supply equal to 50 curies per year, with significantly more needed for broader clinical use in patient populations. The DOE’s current supply is 1.7 curies, according to the company. 

Serva began working with researchers from the Mayo Clinic in early 2022 as part of a programme that also involved the Arizona State University (ASU) Alliance for Health Care.

Nuclear facilities and chemistry laboratories at both ASU and the University of California-Irvine (UCI) were involved in the work, which was carried out using radium-226 seed material provided by the DOE.

Serva said it has produced several initial batches of Ac-225 using UCI’s Triga reactor and a “proprietary materials and process technology”.

The company said its reactor-based approach to Ac-225 production yields a product “free of problematic contaminants like Actinium-227-a frequent coproduct of other methods”.

In June Belgium-based PanTera and US-based TerraPower Isotopes signed an agreement to increase the global production of Ac-225. TerraPower said Ac-225 was a promising radioisotope for the treatment of a wide array of cancers, which is presently undergoing clinical trials.

PanTera said Ac-225 has been causing excitement among researchers who are finding ways to use it to target cancers while avoiding healthy cells.

There are several clinical studies in progress, ranging from pre-clinical development to phase-three clinical trials, PanTera said. The company said, however, that while demand is growing, supply for Ac-225 remains scarce.

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