SCK CEN And TerThera Collaborate To Secure Terbium-161 Supply

SCK CEN (ENS Corporate Member) and TerThera signed an agreement to handle together the production process of Terbium-161, a promising novel radionuclide for cancer treatment.

Terbium-161 can meet the growing demand in cancer healthcare, exhibiting comparable (radio)chemical characteristics to known radiolanthanides.

Targeted cancer therapies with Terbium-161 are expected to have a higher therapeutic effect. This is due to its special properties

Koen Hasaers, Director of Nuclear Medical Applications at SCK CEN, said.

Indeed, Terbium-161 has the property that when the radioisotope decays, it immediately emits an average of two low-energy Auger electrons per beta particle. Once emitted, those electrons, like alpha particles, do not travel far. 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.

Early research suggests that those Terbium-161 characteristics result in improved anti-tumor capabilities for primary and (micro)metastasized cancers, but further preclinical tests are necessary.

The non-carrier-added (NCA) Terbium-161 is produced by neutron irradiation of highly enriched Gadolinium-160 targets. Gadolinium comes from the series of rare earth metals.

TerThera has uninterrupted access to that feedstock, while SCK CEN has developed an in-house separation technique to isolate pure Terbium-161. That pure isotope is subsequently linked to a molecule and processed into a radiopharmaceutical for further research.

Read the SCK CEN Press Release.

Several projects are currently focusing on promising radioisotopes.

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

In September 2022, SCK CEN and IBA (Ion Beam Applications S.A.), the world leader in particle accelerator technology, also announced the creation of the joint-venture Pantera SA/NV, resulting from the strategic R&D partnership between SCK CEN and IBA to enable the production of actinium-225 (225Ac).

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

This year, 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.