NRG starts 1000th production run of isotopes for the treatment of pancreatic and intestinal cancer
On 26 September, the High Flux Reactor (HFR) in Petten, the Netherlands, started up its 1000th production run of the medical isotope lutetium, which is used in the fight against pancreatic and intestinal cancer. What began as a small experiment ten years ago has grown into an indispensable weapon in nuclear medicine’s arsenal. The use of lutetium in nuclear medicine for the treatment of patients with neuroendocrine tumours has grown strongly in recent years.These are primarily slow-growing tumours in the pancreas, the intestinal tract or, in rare cases, the lungs. During the past ten years, around a thousand patients have been treated with lutetium in the Erasmus M.C. (Medisch Centrum – or Medical Centre) in Rotterdam alone.
According to Prof. Eric Krenning, of the Erasmus MC, “With this therapy patients with metastic neuroendocrine tumours live three to four years longer and with a better quality of life?"
The successful application of lutetium in cancer patients means that it is now produced on a weekly basis in Petten. In recent years NRG (the “Nuclear Research & consultancy Group” in the Netherlands) has made significant investments in the development of special irradiation facilities in the reactor for this purpose. In collaboration with the company IDB Holland, production laboratories have been built in Petten and Baarle Nassau for the supply of lutetium to hospitals. This means that hospitals can count on a weekly supply of lutetium, now and in the future. With this 1000th production run, NRG and IDB Holland ensure that in the coming week tens of patients can once again count on receiving the proper treatment.
NRG is responsible for the operation of Petten’s HFR. Every day an average of 24,000 patients throughout the world are treated with isotopes produced in Petten. Consequently, NRG is the second largest producer of isotopes in the world. They are used for a variety of purposes, including for diagnosis (scans), for cancer therapy and for palliative care (pain control).
Every day, over 400 NRG employees work in a field that uses a safe application of nuclear technology to both guarantee a reliable energy supply and to promote better healthcare. This work ranges from the development of innovative reactor fuels, to dealing properly with radiation and to the recycling of radioactive waste. NRG is also a leader when it comes to safety at nuclear power plants and for the production of raw materials used in medicines designed to treat cancer.