Serva Energy teams with research reactor to produce cancer-fighting Ac-225

June 27, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News

Serva Energy has developed a research reactor–based method of actinium-225 production, the company announced on June 22, saying it “marks the first time a commercial entity has employed a conventional nuclear reactor to produce the lifesaving isotope—allowing for dozens of existing research reactors around the world to collaborate with Serva on increasing production of Actinium-225 without huge capital investments or delays for construction.”

The potential and the need: Ac-225 is used for targeted alpha therapy for certain types of cancer. When linked with special antibodies that target and selectively bind to cancer cells, Ac-225 can deliver a localized therapeutic dose of alpha radiation to cancer cells with little or no harm to healthy tissue.

According to Serva, the 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. Ac-225 has a half-life of 10 days.

The DOE’s National Isotope Development Center (NIDC), which is managed by the DOE Isotope Program, supports multiple Ac-225 production methods. Currently, the bulk of Ac-225 available for research is “milked” from the decay of thorium-229 that had been stored for decades as a waste product. Recent work by national laboratories and private companies has included improving the efficiency of the isotope separation process and on accelerator-produced Ac-225 using thorium-232 targets.

Reactor-based approach: Serva began working with researchers from the Mayo Clinic in early 2022 as part of the spring cohort of the MedTech Accelerator, a program of the Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University Alliance for Health Care. Nuclear facilities and chemistry laboratories at both ASU and the University of California–Irvine were involved in the work, which was carried out using radium-226 seed material provided by the DOE Isotope Program.

Serva has produced several initial batches of Ac-225 using UCI’s TRIGA reactor and a “proprietary materials and process technology,” and reports that its reactor-based approach to Ac-225 production yields a product “free of problematic contaminants like Actinium-227—a frequent coproduct of other methods.”

“It’s been truly rewarding to utilize UCI’s TRIGA research reactor and our nuclear chemistry laboratories to contribute to such an important application of nuclear materials,” said Sarah Finkeldei, a professor in the Department of Chemistry at UCI who was involved in the research. “It’s particularly exciting for our undergraduate students to participate in these research activities and get trained on materials that are critical to radiation therapy and public health.”

They said it: “Serva’s production method is highly promising and has significant potential to make commercial quantities of Actinium-225 suitable for radiopharmaceutical use,” said Ian Horn, a senior associate consultant who specializes in radiochemistry and radiopharmaceuticals in the Mayo Clinic Departments of Nuclear Medicine and Radiology who validated the initial batches of Ac-225. “Targeted alpha therapies are the next generation of therapeutic radiopharmaceutical products. To facilitate the development and use of these novel treatments, it is critical that the supply chain of alpha emitting isotopes, such as Actinium-225, be improved to support multiple commercial applications.”

“Innovations like this are possible at Serva because of the best-in-class technology we’ve been able to leverage through our innovative partners at UCI, ASU, and Mayo Clinic,” said Sarah Jones, vice president of Serva Medical. “Through these and other partnerships, we can move quickly to begin supplying research-grade Actinium-225, establish GMP [good manufacturing practices] production, and submit a drug master file.”

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