Arronax © Region des Pays de la Loire – PB. Fourny

© Région des Pays de la Loire – PB. Fourny

Researchers in two Nantes laboratories have made a discovery with the potential to transform the specialty of nuclear medicine. Their work with an isotope of a rare naturally-occurring radioactive element opens a new avenue for the treatment of cancer.

Astatine is a chemical element in the halogen series. Naturally radioactive, it is extremely rare: it is estimated that the earth’s crust contains a total of less than 30 grams. It is however possible to produce it in the laboratory, and one of its isotopes has characteristics which make it an exciting prospect for the treatment of cancer.

Researchers in the Subatech and Ceisam laboratories have discovered a new ionic species of the element which is soluble in water. This property opens up the prospect of transporting it inside cancerous cells to treat them. The work was made possible with the use of the Arronax high-energy cyclotron available to the research community in Nantes.

A center of excellence in nuclear medicine in Nantes

The results of the research were recently published in the prestigious Chemistry – A European Journal and represent an important step on the path to innovative treatments for small tumors. A center of excellence dedicated to nuclear medicine is currently being set up in Nantes, with finance from the Pays de la Loire Region, which will reinforce several major research projects already underway such as the Firm project, which recently landed a €10 million research grant.

Nantes: high hopes for new isotope in cancer treatment