BC particle accelerator triumphs in agreement to produce “rarest drug on earth”

A team at the Canadian Particle Acceleration Plant at the University of British Columbia is celebrating a major triumph by signing a contract to produce a rare cancer drug that previously relied on nuclear waste.

The TRIUMF project has partnered with Ontario-based Fusion Pharmaceuticals to upgrade its actinium-225 plant, dubbed the “rarest drug on Earth.”

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This rare radioisotope began appearing on the covers about five years ago when four treatments were applied to a German who was just weeks away from death and who was suffering from multiple cancerous tumors.

Eight months later, the tumors disappeared.

“We see that cancer is basically removed in some cases, so these are very early results, but very exciting,” TRIUMF Innovations CEO Kathryn Hayashi told Global News about the isotope potential.

But actinium-225 is very rare. So far, the global supply of material has come from U.S. radioactive waste.

In 2015, Paul Schaffer, one of the associate directors of TRIUMF’s laboratories, realized that the institution produces significant amounts of actinium-225 through regular use of its high-energy research cyclotron plant.

“The cyclotron accelerates protons up to three quarters of the speed of light with the help of electromagnets. So it basically shoots it down the beam and hits the beam, ”Hayashi explained.

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“It basically disperses it and creates hundreds of different isotopes, and one of them is actinium-225.”

Hayashi says that facility could theoretically increase the amount to produce thousands of doses of the drug.

This is especially exciting because early research has shown that actinium is effective in killing cancer cells, while leaving healthy parts of the human body unchanged.

“It is very difficult to develop resistance with actinium,” explained Dr. Francis Bernard, vice president of research at BC Cancer.

“Therefore, we assume that this will be an effective third-line treatment, along with other available treatments.”

The first step for TRIUMF will be to develop the supply chain.

The second step will involve conducting clinical trials in British Columbia, potentially over the next 18 months.

“It’s like sending a man to the moon or a woman to the moon,” Bernard said.

“You know how to get there, you just need to develop resources.”

© 2020 Global News, Corus Entertainment Inc.