Isotopes production for medicine

Producing radioisotopes for medicine

December 2017

ILL's nuclear reactor is essentially used for producing neutrons for scientific research; however it has also been used over recent years for producing innovative radioisotopes for medical purposes, lutetium-177 to be precise, a very special radioisotope. According to ILL's Ulli Köster "These radioisotopes emit beta rays, capable of covering no more than a few millimetres of distance. They are perfect for treating small metastases". Lutetium-177 is now being tested in clinical trials for certain types of cancer, including intestinal, prostate and lymph node cancer.

ILL produces lutetium-177 by irradiating a stable precursor, ytterbium-176. The irradiated ytterbium-176 target is then sent to Bavaria, where the radio-pharmaceutical company ITG Garching separates out and purifies the lutetium-177, which is then sent out to hospitals around the world. Over a thousand cancer patients have already been treated with this "made in Grenoble" isotope.

ILL also produces other such radioisotopes, such as terbium-161 or scandium-47; they are sent out to partner institutions for radiochemical separation and preclinical trials.

It would be possible to expand our production of radioisotopes, and we are looking for partners with whom we could set up an automatic irradiation unit.