European network brings new medical radioisotopes to patients faster
Europe has a new network: PRISMAP. This network unites over 20 European academic institutions and research centres, including SCK CEN. They will work together in a coordinated way to boost the development of medical radioisotopes, which will ultimately benefit patients. Picture: ©CERN 2018-2021
More than twenty academic institutions and research centres are pooling their knowledge, expertise, and infrastructure in the European medical isotope programme: Production of high purity Isotopes by mass Separation for Medical Application, or ‘PRISMAP’. This recently established European network is working to speed up the introduction of new medical radioisotopes. According to the nuclear research centre and founding member SCK CEN, this coordinated collaboration will make a world of difference. Medical radioisotopes make a crucial contribution in all stages of cancer care, from early detection, diagnosis and treatment, to palliative care. "Radioisotopes used in targeted cancer treatments are becoming increasingly important. There are many promising radioisotopes that could be considered for these applications, but further research is required to prove their therapeutic effect. Scientists need a reliable supply to in order to conduct research, and this is where things often stall, because the industry only invests in radioisotopes with a healthy market. Scientific research offers that certainty. This network enables research and production to work together like a well-oiled machine," says Koen Vermeulen, PRISMAP co-ordinator at SCK CEN.
Contribution from BR2, NURA, MYRRHA and SCK CEN Academy
What the European network will do in practice is facilitate access to new medical radioisotopes for (pre)clinical research. This is why PRISMAP includes leading European institutions with unique facilities such as research reactors, particle accelerators, and radiochemistry laboratories. "In terms of SCK CEN, the PRISMAP partners can count on our BR2 research reactor for the production of medical radioisotopes on the one hand, and our cancer treatment programme NURA on the other. With NURA, we play the role of a preclinical research partner and producer of medical radioisotopes – specialising in radiopharmaceuticals," adds Ruth Vreys, project manager of NURA and PRISMAP co-ordinator at SCK CEN.
PRISMAP is future-focused. To increase its capacities, it also welcomes facilities that are in the pipeline. MYRRHA's ISOL (Isotope Separation On-Line) installation is one of these. In this facility, researchers will develop theranostic radioisotopes – used for therapeutic treatment or diagnostic research.
The exchange of knowledge is essential in order to make rapid progress in research and development, and for this reason, the SCK CEN Academy is also closely involved in this network. They will organise workshops and seminars to ensure knowledge transfer.
What are targeted treatments?
Targeted cancer treatments involve the very precise delivery of a therapeutic radioisotope to cancer cells using a carrier molecule. Once the carrier molecule is bound to or absorbed into the cell, the radioisotope can irradiate the cancer cells without affecting healthy tissue. The cancer cells are damaged, causing them to die off and the tumour itself eventually shrinks or disappears.
Would you like to know more about PRISMAP as a whole?
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