Doe Science news source
The DOE Science News Source is a Newswise initiative to promote research news from the Office of Science of the DOE to the public and news media.
  • 2018-05-31 08:45:52
  • Article ID: 695358

ORNL ramps up production of key radioisotope for cancer-fighting drug

  • Credit: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy

    Radiochemical technicians David Denton and Karen Murphy use hot cell manipulators at Oak Ridge National Laboratory during the production of actinium-227.

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is now producing actinium-227 (Ac-227) to meet projected demand for a highly effective cancer drug through a 10-year contract between the U.S. DOE Isotope Program and Bayer.

Xofigo (radium Ra-223 dichloride) is used to treat prostate cancer that no longer responds to hormonal or surgical treatment that lowers testosterone. Xofigo is for men whose prostate cancer has spread to the bone with symptoms but not to other parts of the body. 

Ra-223, the active ingredient in Xofigo, is currently derived from global supplies of existing Ac-227. After the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Xofigo in 2013, it was clear an alternative source of Ac-227 was needed. The drug is now approved in 52 countries worldwide. 

“As part of our longstanding commitment to improving the lives of those living with cancer, we are honored to be working with the Department of Energy and Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s radioisotope production experts and their unique facilities to ensure a sustainable supply of this important drug, Xofigo, into the foreseeable future,” said Carsten Brunn, president of Bayer Pharmaceuticals, Americas Region.

With decades of experience in medical isotope research and production, ORNL was one of the few locations worldwide with the personnel and facilities necessary to develop and execute a new Ac-227 production method. 

“We are excited to enter this partnership with Bayer to ensure prostate cancer patients have a reliable supply of this drug,” said Jehanne Gillo, Director of the Facilities and Project Management Division for the DOE Office of Science for Nuclear Physics. “This is a great example of the public and private sectors working together to address a vital need that affects tens of thousands of lives each year.”

Gillo also manages the DOE Isotope Program, which produces high priority isotopes in short supply for the nation. The program sponsored the Ac-227 production development effort and spearheaded negotiations with Bayer for sustained production.

The new production process for Ac-227 begins with recovering radium-226 (Ra-226) from legacy medical devices secured by the DOE Isotope Program and diverted from a radioactive waste landfill. After recovery and extensive purification, the Ra-226 feedstock—which is fabricated into small targets—is then irradiated in the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR), a DOE Office of Science User Facility at ORNL.

Once irradiation is complete, technologists use specialized nuclear facilities to dissolve the highly radioactive targets and chemically separate and purify the Ac-227 created during irradiation. The Ac-227 is then packaged in a cask and shipped to Bayer in Norway. Bayer’s team periodically extracts the Ra-223 that grows into the ORNL-supplied Ac-227, via radioactive decay process, and ships it around the world for immediate use as a cancer therapy. 

ORNL’s team had two years to prepare facilities; undergo an extensive readiness review process; design, fabricate and install remotely operated equipment for the chemical separation and purification process; design targets for use in HFIR; develop the necessary processing chemistry; and demonstrate that the final product would meet Bayer’s specifications and regulatory standards. 

“Bayer made it clear that the company needed to expand its current supply of Ac-227 to meet the increasing demand for Xofigo,” said Saed Mirzadeh, principal investigator for the project and an ORNL Corporate Fellow. “Development and demonstration of our new production capability was a very rigorous process to ensure nuclear safety and product quality. Everyone worked very hard to ensure that our deadlines were met safely. We all felt that it was an honor to work on a project that will make a difference in the lives of so many people.”

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit https://science.energy.gov/.

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Carbon Nanotube Optics Poised to Provide Pathway to Optical-Based Quantum Cryptography and Quantum Computing

Researchers at Los Alamos and partners in France and Germany are exploring the enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes as single-photon emitters for quantum information processing. Their analysis of progress in the field is published in this week's edition of the journal Nature Materials.

New Tech Uses Isomeric Beams to Study How and Where the Galaxy Makes One of Its Most Common Elements

A new measurement using a beam of aluminum-26 prepared in a metastable state allows researchers to better understand the creation of the elements in our galaxy.

Scientists Use Neutrons to Take a Deeper Look at Record Boost in Thermoelectric Efficiency

Neutron facilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are aiding scientists in research to boost the power and efficiency of thermoelectric materials. These performance increases could enable more cost-effective and practical uses for thermoelectrics, with wider industry adoption, to improve fuel economy in vehicles, make power plants more efficient, and advance body heat-powered technologies for watches and smartphones.

The science behind pickled battery electrolytes

Argonne material scientists have discovered a reaction that helps explain the behavior of a key electrolyte additive used to boost battery performance.

Faster, Cheaper, Better: A New Way to Synthesize DNA

Researchers at the Department of Energy's Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) based at Berkeley Lab have pioneered a new way to synthesize DNA sequences through a creative use of enzymes that promises to be faster, cheaper, and more accurate. DNA synthesis is a fundamental tool in the rapidly growing field of synthetic biology, in which organisms can be engineered to do things like decompose plastic and manufacture biofuels and medicines. This discovery could dramatically accelerate the pace of scientific discovery.

Scientists Create Continuously Emitting Microlasers With Nanoparticle-Coated Beads

Researchers have found a way to convert nanoparticle-coated microscopic beads into lasers smaller than red blood cells. These microlasers, which convert infrared light into light at higher frequencies, are among the smallest continuously emitting lasers of their kind ever reported and can constantly and stably emit light for hours at a time, even when submerged in biological fluids such as blood serum.

New Material for Splitting Water

Solar energy is clean and abundant, but when the sun isn't shining, you must store the energy in batteries or through a process called photocatalysis. In photocatalytic water splitting, sunlight separates water into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen and oxygen can then be recombined in a fuel cell to release energy. Now, a new class of materials -- halide double perovskites -- may have just the right properties to split water, according to a newly published paper in Applied Physics Letters.

Large Outdoor Study Shows Biodiversity Improves Stability of Algal Biofuel Systems

A diverse mix of species improves the stability and fuel-oil yield of algal biofuel systems, as well as their resistance to invasion by outsiders, according to the findings of a federally funded outdoor study by University of Michigan researchers.

SLAC, Stanford Scientists Discover How a Hardy Microbe's Crystalline Shell Helps it Reel in Food

SLAC and Stanford scientists have discovered how some archaea thrive where other organisms would starve: Their crystalline shells not only protect them from the environment, but they also draw in nutrients through nanosized pores. Those nutrients concentrate in the space between the shell and the microbial cell, so what looks like a famine turns into a feast.

Scientists Make the First Molecular Movie of One of Nature's Most Widely Used Light Sensors

Scientists have made the first molecular movie of the instant when light hits a sensor that's widely used in nature for probing the environment and harvesting energy from light. The sensor, a form of vitamin A known as retinal, is central to a number of important light-driven processes in people, animals, microbes and algae, including human vision and some forms of photosynthesis, and the movie shows it changing shape in a trillionth of an eye blink.


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Professor Emily Liu Receives $1.8 Million DoE Award for Solar Power Systems Research

Li (Emily) Liu, associate professor of nuclear engineering and engineering physics in the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has been selected by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to receive a $1.8 million award to study high-temperature molten-salt properties and corrosion mechanisms.

Vasilis Fthenakis Receives IEEE's William R. Cherry Award

UPTON, NY; Vasilis Fthenakis, a Senior Scientist Emeritus at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory and Founder and Director of the Center for Life Cycle Analysis at Columbia University, will receive the 2018 William R. Cherry Award from the Institute of Electrical & Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

New PPPL director Steve Cowley is honored with knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II

Steven Cowley, newly named director of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) effective July 1, has received a knighthood from Queen Elizabeth "for services to science and the development of nuclear fusion."

UVA Darden Releases Policy Playbook Identifying Six Actions to Catalyze Clean-Tech Innovation

Moving the needle on climate change will require substantive and disruptive innovation across multiple industry sectors. Public and private investment focused on a few key areas could have a significant impact, according to a new policy playbook released by the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation on 8 June.

Work Begins on New SLAC Facility for Revolutionary Accelerator Science

The Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory has started to assemble a new facility for revolutionary accelerator technologies that could make future accelerators 100 to 1,000 times smaller and boost their capabilities.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory Launches America's New Top Supercomputer for Science

The U.S. Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory unveiled Summit as the world's most powerful and smartest scientific supercomputer.

Takeuchi Receives European Inventor Award 2018 in the Non-EPO Countries Category

Prolific patent-holder won for inventing battery that increases the lifespan of implantable defibrillators fivefold, greatly reducing need for reoccurring surgery

Steve Kevan Named Next Director of Berkeley Lab's Advanced Light Source

After an international search, Stephen D. "Steve" Kevan has been named the new director of the Advanced Light Source (ALS) at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

International corrosion society elects first Sandia fellow

Sandia National Laboratories materials scientist David Enos has been elected a fellow of NACE International, the chief professional society for corrosion engineering. He is the first Sandia employee to receive the honor.

Power to the People

The University of Utah College of Engineering has received a $2 million grant to create a laboratory and develop new technology for communities with backup power sources, known as microgrids, so they can quickly and more securely operate in the event of a massive power outage due to a natural disaster or cyberattack.


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New Tech Uses Isomeric Beams to Study How and Where the Galaxy Makes One of Its Most Common Elements

A new measurement using a beam of aluminum-26 prepared in a metastable state allows researchers to better understand the creation of the elements in our galaxy.

Simulations of Magnetically Confined Plasmas Reveal a Self-Regulating Stabilizing Mechanism

A mysterious mechanism that prevents instabilities may be similar to the process that maintains the Earth's magnetic field.

Seeing All the Colors of the Plasma Wind

2-D velocity imaging helps fusion researchers understand the role of ion winds (aka flows) in the boundary of tokamak plasmas.

Renewable Solvents Derived From Lignin Lowers Waste in Biofuel Production

New class of solvents breaks down plant biomass into sugars for biofuels and bioproducts in a closed-loop biorefinery concept.

Scientists Studying Nuclear Spin Make a Surprising Discovery

The size of a nucleus appears to influence the direction of certain particles emitted from collisions with spinning protons.

Simulating Turbulent Bubbly Flows in Nuclear Reactors

With a better understanding of bubbly flows, researchers can improve the safety and operation of our nuclear reactors.

Solving a Magnesium Mystery in Rechargeable Battery Performance

Study reveals surprising, bad chemical reactivity in battery components previously considered compatible.

Changing the Surroundings Improves Catalysis

Water changes how cobalt-based molecule turns carbon dioxide into chemical feedstock.

How to Draw a Line Narrower Than a Cold Virus

Scientists use ion beams to write high-purity metal structures, enabling nanofabrication opportunities.

Powering Up With a Smart Window

Window material repeatedly switches from being see-through to blocking the heat and converting sunlight into electricity.


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