Biotechnology

Scientists develop inorganic resins to produce and purify radium and

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Targeted alpha therapy can destroy cancer cells without harming healthy cells. It is especially useful for treating cancer that has metastasized. The Office of the Department of Energy (DOE) Isotope Program is developing and marketing a new radioactive isotope for targeted alpha therapy. One method for making one isotope, actinium-225, involves bombarding a radium target with neutrons. This method posed a challenge: how to chemically separate radium from actinium. It can destroy ordinary separation equipment due to a radioactive process called alpha decay. Now, researchers have investigated the use of radiation-resistant inorganic resin scaffolds as a platform for separating radium, actinium, and lead.

Scientists Develop Inorganic Resins to Produce and Purify Radium and Actinium

Credit: Image courtesy of Brown, MA, Metal Oxide Sorbents for Separation of Radium and Actinium, Industrial & Engineering Chemical Research, 59, 20472-20477 (2020). (DOI: 10.1021/acs.iecr.0c04084)

Knowledge

Targeted alpha therapy can destroy cancer cells without harming healthy cells. It is especially useful for treating cancer that has metastasized. The Office of the Department of Energy (DOE) Isotope Program is developing and marketing a new radioactive isotope for targeted alpha therapy. One method for making one isotope, actinium-225, involves bombarding a radium target with neutrons. This method posed a challenge: how to chemically separate radium from actinium. It can destroy ordinary separation equipment due to a radioactive process called alpha decay. Now, researchers have investigated the use of radiation-resistant inorganic resin scaffolds as a platform for separating radium, actinium, and lead.

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Demand for and production of actinium-225 (Ac-225) and other alpha-emitting radioisotopes is increasing. This new resin type will support the purification and distribution of this rescue isotope. As production increases, radiation levels will also increase. The chemical process must be robust in this hazardous environment. This new resin and this new research will help manufacturers save time, effort, and money while reducing the risks of manufacturing alpha-emitting radioisotopes.

Summary

Research by scientists at Argonne National Laboratory explores new materials that could support and facilitate the efficient separation of radium and actinium in the context of the large-scale production of radioisotopes used in targeted alpha therapy. While this radioisotope has the potential to produce powerful results in cancer treatment, increasing production to meet the high demand for this radioisotope comes with increased radiation levels. This creates a new set of challenges, in particular radiation damage to process equipment.

The researchers are exploring this new class of radiation-resistant materials with respect to the fundamental radiochemical separation of radium, actinium and lead. Through rigorous screening based on separation efficiency and chemical resistance, they finally determined that a zirconium-based material was the optimal platform. The results demonstrated a good separation ability of radium from actinium along with outstanding radiopurity using relatively simple chemistry. These efforts advance DOE’s Isotope Program and its mission to conduct research and development on the production and processing of new and improved isotopes for high priority cancer-fighting radioisotopes.



Funding

This research was supported by the DOE Isotope Program, which is administered by DOE’s Office of Science for Isotope R&D and Production.


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