Alliance launching to produce life-saving medical isotopes at nuclear station in Clarington

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Published May 21, 2024 at 4:39 pm

An alliance to produce and market life-saving medical isotopes at the Darlington Nuclear station will be launched Friday in Bowmanville.

The Central and Eastern Ontario Isotope Alliance (CEOIA) is a joint initiative between the Municipality of Clarington, the Canadian Nuclear Isotope Council, Laurentis Energy Partners and Ontario Power Generation (OPG), in partnership with RS McLaughlin Durham Cancer Centre in Oshawa, Actineer, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories and leaders from the isotope industry, healthcare, academia and other levels of government.

The event, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Garnett Rickard Recreation Complex, will feature speakers talking about cutting-edge developments in the isotope industry along with a panel discussing how collaboration on medical isotopes will improve health outcomes for Canadians and patients around the world.

A similar alliance serving Bruce Nuclear and southwestern Ontario was launched late last year.

Laurentis, a subsidiary of OPG, will produce a nuclear medical isotope at Darlington Nuclear that will help treat liver cancer, the fourth most common cause of cancer deaths in the world. It’s estimated to affect 4,700 Canadians, with the diagnosis leading to fatalities in about three-quarters of those suffering with the disease.

Laurentis will use its proprietary Target Delivery System (installed in Darlington’s #2 reactor) which was developed in partnership with Ottawa-area company BWXT Medical, to produce Y-90, a potentially life-saving isotope instrumental in treating several diseases, primarily liver cancer.

Pending regulatory approvals, Laurentis expects to begin producing the isotope by mid-2025.

The company has been at the testing stage for a targeted delivery system for the isotopes – which have been produced at Darlington since early last year – and is now ready for commercial production. The system will convert the radioactive raw material into a cancer-fighting drug called TheraSphere, which is currently manufactured in Ontario using an imported supply of isotopes.

TheraSphere is a Health Canada and FDA-approved radioembolization treatment which has proven to downsize and destroy tumors; ultimately extending the survival of patients with Hepatocellular Carcinoma, the most common type of primary liver cancer. The drug enables targeted and personalized liver cancer therapy using millions of microscopic, irradiated Y-90 glass microspheres, to target tumors with a high dose of radiation without affecting other healthy parts of the body.

TheraSphere is also in early-stage clinical trials to treat glioblastoma, a highly aggressive form of brain cancer from which more than 90 per cent of patients die within five years of diagnosis.

Because of the unique design of Darlington’s CANDU reactors, Y-90 can be produced without interrupting the generation of clean energy. Once irradiated, Y-90 will be sent to the BWXT Medical facility in Ottawa to be packaged and distributed to more than 30 countries for use in minimally invasive, targeted radiation therapy to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumours.

Y-90 is the first of Laurentis’ isotopes to be used in therapeutic treatment. Other nuclear isotopes are used in critical applications such as medical diagnostics and food sterilization.

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