Though production of radioactive isotopes or radioisotopes for medical use date back to the World War II era Manhattan Project, does lutetium-177 represent the latest advances in radioisotope cancer treatment?
By: Ringo Bones
The radioisotopes – which more than 150 are now have current medical use are perhaps the most notable byproduct of humanity’s atomic energy program that dates back to the latter years of World War II. Many isotopes discovered afterwards had been tested and used to apply radiation for cancer treatment both externally and internally. The great concentrated of the radioactivity emitted by these substances is evident by the fact that their ability to penetrate body tissue is approximately the same as that of the radiation from a 2-million-volt X-ray machine. But is there anything new that can still be discovered from the somewhat esoteric field of radioisotope cancer therapy?
Thanks to small research nuclear reactors that are found in most Ivy League college’s nuclear physics labs that can be operated for around 200 US dollars an hour, many previously unknown radioactive isotopes can now be economically produced to be studied for their potential cancer therapy use. The latest of which is lutetium-177, which after extensive testing was found out to only target tumors while ignoring healthy cells – especially neuro-endocrine tumors which can be almost impossible to remove by conventional surgery alone.
Like previous radioactive isotopes used for cancer treatment, lutetium-177 is usually delivered intravenously to the body via saline solution from its shielded container. Still the lutetium-177 infusion dose is still a relatively rare medical procedure and there are still doctors and hospitals out there that are still unfamiliar with using lutetium-177 as a radioisotope for cancer treatment. Lutetium-177 is also notable for its ability to penetrate a typical cancer cell’s defenses and its side effects are less extreme in comparison to more aggressive forms of chemotherapy. And lutetium-177 is even better than radioisotope phosphorous-32 in differentiating brain tumors from normal brain tissue, thus sparking its interest as the latest procedure in radioisotope cancer therapy.