CNL Turns Its Attention to Next-Generation of Medical Isotopes

CHALK RIVER, Ontario, Oct. 31, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Canadian Nuclear Laboratories (CNL), Canada’s premier nuclear science and technology organization, is pleased to announce that it is building on its 70-year history in medical isotope production and research to advance the availability and scientific understanding of actinium-225, a rare medical isotope that has shown great promise as the basis for new, cutting-edge cancer therapies. This was the message delivered earlier today by Mark Lesinski, CNL President and CEO, during a presentation at the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) International Symposium on Trends in Pharmaceuticals (ISTR-2019) in Vienna.

During the talk, Lesinski discussed pre-clinical research CNL is conducting with leading Canadian research organizations to help enable medical treatments using actinium-225 to fight a wide spectrum of cancers and other diseases. This work is in addition to the successful joint trial production run of actinium-225 that CNL recently completed in partnership with TRIUMF, Canada’s particle accelerator centre, which could serve as a major leap forward in the availability of the rare isotope.

“Together, CNL and TRIUMF have successfully demonstrated the viability of our joint production and separation process, a major milestone that will make high-purity actinium-225 more widely available for research and clinical studies,” commented Mark Lesinski, President and CEO at CNL. “But our work goes beyond this exciting project. CNL has also entered into a number of different collaborative research agreements to develop drug delivery techniques and technologies around targeted alpha therapy, so we can help to realize the full potential of this promising new form of cancer treatment.”

With funding provided to CNL through the Federal Nuclear Science and Technology Work Plan administered by Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, the collaborative research agreements are being carried out together with the University of Saskatchewan, as well as University of Saskatchewan researchers whose projects are supported by the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation Inc. This work encompasses pre-clinical research to support the development of targeted radionuclide therapies for colorectal cancer, breast cancer (led by Dr. Humphrey Fonge, College of Medicine University of Saskatchewan), the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and invasive fungal infections (led by Dr. Ekaterina Dadachova, College of Pharmacy & Nutrition University of Saskatchewan). In addition to their production and processing agreement, CNL and TRIUMF are also conducting research related to chelation, an important bonding mechanism needed to bind the isotope to a peptide or antibody that specifically targets a diseased cell or tissue, ensuring it is delivered to the desired location in a patient’s body (led by Dr. Valery Radchenko).

An alpha-emitting isotope with a short half-life, actinium-225 can be used in this manner to more effectively target cancer cells, creating a revolutionary treatment that is extremely effective at killing cancer cells without doing damage to surrounding, healthy cells. Known as targeted alpha therapy, this new form of treatment has shown exciting potential in early studies with prostate cancer patients for whom conventional cancer therapies have not worked.

“Unfortunately the global shortage of this rare isotope has delayed important research into this promising new form of cancer therapy,” explained Lesinski. “So, our work at CNL with actinium-225 is two-fold: we’re not only collaborating with TRIUMF to produce larger quantities of the isotope, but we’re also conducting foundational research to help accelerate the development of medical applications that can harness its potential.”

Produced using TRIUMF’s high-energy cyclotron in Vancouver and processed at CNL’s Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario, the increased availability of actinium-225 is expected to be well received by the medical and pharmaceutical communities. According to Lesinski, the new joint production process is expected to increase global supplies to levels that could permit hundreds of thousands of treatments every year, a dramatic increase from current levels, which can only be used to enable a handful of treatments.

For more information on CNL, including its work in targeted alpha therapy, please visit

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