Radiosotope production for medicine
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 has been successfully tested and is already proving effective against certain types of cancer, including prostate and neuroendocrine cancers.
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 ITM Radiopharma separates out and purifies the lutetium-177, which is then sent out to hospitals around the world. Tens of thousands of 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 and clinical trials.
ILL is keen to expand its radioisotope production. Partnerships are gradually being set up, with the primary aim of increasing production capacity.