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Earlier this year, the American Cancer Society released a report that found the U.S. cancer death rate has fallen to 33%; the lowest since 1991. This progress is, in part, due to advancements in cancer treatment options.

Despite this progress, more than one in three people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime, with millions living with disease. To address the ongoing need for treatment options, TerraPower Isotopes (TPI), a subsidiary of TerraPower, through nuclear innovation is supporting the development of precision medicine solutions. As doctors, scientists and researchers around the globe continue their work to improve cancer treatments and further lower the death rate, TPI has been working to bring new materials to market that can support pharmaceutical companies’ cancer research efforts.  

While TerraPower is known for designing the next generation of nuclear reactors, the TPI team is deploying their innovative expertise to create the next generation of isotopes and to support the advancement of technologies that have the potential to drastically change oncological treatments and save lives.  

Radionuclides and Cancer Treatment 

The TPITM technology supports medical research with the development of radioisotope generators that extract rare isotopes, and the current focus is on Actinium-225[1]. Actinium-225 is an alpha-emitting radionuclide which pharmaceutical companies can use as a starting material in their research and development of targeted cancer treatments.

The isotope, through further manufacturing, can be attached to an active molecule and delivered specifically to cancer sites, or even cancerous cells. When injected, Actinium-225 labeled drug products, if developed and approved, destroy cancerous tissues while causing minimal damage to surrounding healthy cells. Ultimately, these new targeted therapies have the potential to drastically improve both the efficacy of the treatment and the quality of life for cancer patients after treatment. 

Progress Through Public-Private Partnerships 

While there is currently a scarce global supply of Actinium-225, TPI is actively working to increase the availability of research-grade Actinium-225. Through an innovative public-private partnership, TerraPower has acquired isotopes from existing legacy nuclear materials that are stored and monitored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Isotek, a DOE contractor, is aiding in the disposal of Uranium-233 from stockpiles that DOE manages. TPI is working with Isotek to recover Thorium-229, which is derived from Uranium-233, before it is ultimately disposed of.   

TPI then harvests Actinium-225 from the Thorium-229 using a natural decay method.This method increases the efficiency and automation of the process, enabling TPI to produce a significant supply of Actinium-225 for use by pharmaceutical companies in the development of new cancer treatments.

In addition to increasing the supply of Actinium-225, TerraPower’s partnership with Isotek and investment in TPI’s technology ultimately reduces both the time and cost typically associated with the disposal of Uranium-233. 

TPI is also working with a variety of industry partners to expand the availability of this isotope, including Cardinal Health. Through these partnerships, the TPI team expects to increase the supply of Actinium-225 exponentially over the next two years. 

Partnering for the Future of Precision Medicine  

As a mission-driven company, TerraPower is committed to improving the world through nuclear science and TPI expands the groundbreaking technology portfolio to include innovative radioisotope generators and partnerships with the pharmaceutical community.   

TerraPower Isotopes aims to bring a scalable solution to the precision medicine market. The proven production methods that TPI employs, along with the vital work of public and private partners, will establish a reliable supply of Actinium-225, and the delivery of this key isotopic starting material to drug developers. This enhanced Actinium-225 supply chain will enable the advancement of drug development trials and increase the research and deployment of advanced cancer treatment options. 

[1]TPI produced Actinium-225 is intended to be used as starting materials for further manufacturing processes and, as starting materials, is not manufactured in accordance wit current good manufacturing practices.