PSI Developed A New Promising Radiopharmaceutical Successfully Tested

A promising radiopharmaceutical against metastatic neuroendocrine tumours has been successfully tested for the first time in patients at the University Hospital Basel, Switzerland.

The new radionuclide terbium-161 was developed at the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI, ENS Corporate Member). 

This isotope has the property that when the radioisotope decays, it immediately emits an average of two low-energy Auger electrons per beta particle. Due to their low energies, those electrons do not travel far, just a few micrometres.

That means a higher dose can accumulate – very locally near the cancer cell – per injection. In theory, a higher local dose translates into a higher therapeutic effect, sparing healthy tissue in the process. The tumour cell is then damaged, no longer able to divide and eventually dies, preventing the formation of metastases.

The new radiopharmaceutical, 161Tb-DOTA-LM3, also being made at PSI, has undergone preclinical studies. 161Tb-DOTA-LM3 is now being tested in a clinical trial led by Damian Wild and Julia Fricke, both from the University Hospital Basel.

Neuroendocrine tumours are a comparatively rare form of cancer originating in the cells that produce hormones. The University Hospital Basel has played a leading role in the research and treatment of this disease for several decades.

According to the University Hospital, in the first test subjects, the irradiation of the tumour cells was shown to be 9 times higher than using the previous standard treatment.

Read the full PSI Press Release.

Several projects are currently focusing on this promising radioisotope.

Last year, SCK CEN (ENS Corporate Member) and TerThera signed an agreement to handle together the production process of terbium-161.

TerThera signed also an agreement with NRG (ENS Corporate Member) for irradiation services in the High Flux Reactor in Petten, to produce terbium-161.

Medical isotopes benefit thousands of patients every day in current clinical practice and have great potential for future clinical challenges.

In April 2023, ENS, together with Euratom Supply Agency (ENS Member), organised the event Beating Cancer – turning the tide with medical isotopes, which gave us the opportunity to learn more about those amazing developments and to discuss the challenges ahead.

You can find its recording and all materials in our Special Newsletter.