- Armed with a "backpack" of radiation, specially
engineered antibodies, shown here as Y-shaped clamps, seek out and destroy
malignant cancer cells while sparing surrounding healthy tissue. The vast
stockpiles of nuclear waste stored at the Hanford site in eastern Washington
may be put to a beneficial use " the treatment of cancer, according
to researchers at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
- The innovative cancer therapy, currently under development,
uses an ultra-pure form of the medical radio isotope yttrium-90 that is
extracted from the weapons production byproduct strontium-90 to deliver
a lethal dose of radiation to selected cancer cells, said Sue Golladay,
project leader at the laboratory.
- The radioisotope is attached to a cancer-binding antibody,
which, once injected, seeks out cancer cells and kills them. The therapy,
unlike chemotherapy, only selects cancer cells, has few side effects and
can be administered on an outpatient basis.
- The development of the technology is in its "embryonic
stages," said Golladay. "We could be on the brink of something
- The researchers liken the extraction of the yttrium-90
from strontium to milking a cow. As a cow does not ever really run out
of milk, the supply of yttrium-90 is relatively infinite. "We could
produce enough radio isotope to treat the world were this proven effective,"
- The technology finds a beneficial use for nuclear waste
stored at the Hanford site in eastern Washington.
- The laboratory has patented the extraction process and
licensed it to a private company, New England Nuclear Life Sciences Products
Inc. of Boston, Mass.
- Although the researchers were unable to give an exact
cost for the technology, on the whole they said the treatment is less expensive
than chemotherapy. "Relatively speaking, it is inexpensive,"
- While the extraction of the radioisotope from the nuclear
waste has a negligible impact on the radioactivity of the waste as a whole,
it does put an unwanted byproduct to use.
- "It is taking the waste that is there and using
it in a beneficial manner," said Golladay.
- In laboratory tests the technology has proven quite effective
in the treatment of lymphomas and is being expanded to the treatment of
solid tumors, including lung, breast and prostate.
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