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Medical Applications

Through the flexible operation of our centrifuge technology, we produce medical radioisotopes for three specific areas of the medical sector – diagnostics, therapy and pain relief.

Each year, more than one million patient treatments are performed using medical radioisotopes.

Diagnostics

Nuclear diagnostic imaging techniques enable medical professionals around the world to identify diseases at an early stage, track disease progression, allow for accurate disease staging and provide predictive information about the likely success of alternative therapy options.

One of the most important diagnostic techniques is gamma imaging. Nuclear medicine departments use gamma cameras to detect diseases in various organs, including: heart, brain, bone, lung and the thyroid. Urenco Stable Isotopes produces the stable precursors for the radioisotopes gallium67 (i.e. zinc68), indium111 (i.e. cadmium112) and iodine123 (i.e. xenon124), which are all used in these cameras.

Another diagnostic radioisotope is iodine124, which is used for positron emission tomography. We produce the stable precursor tellurium124.

Urenco Stable Isotopes also produces enriched molybdenum98 and molybdenum100, which after irradiation is activated to molybdenum99. Molybdenum99 decays into technetium99m which is used as a tracer and detected in the body by medical diagnostic imaging techniques.

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Therapy

Medical radioisotopes are also used for therapeutic purposes. Brachytherapy is a procedure which uses temporary irradiation close to the area of disease, in particular for cancer and stenosis. Urenco Stable Isotopes produces iridium191 for iridium192 sources used in remotely controlled afterloaders, which deliver the radiation dose to the patient.

Another example of brachytherapy is the use of radioactive sources (seeds) in tumours, in particular prostate cancer. A significant percentage of patients diagnosed with this disease are treated with these radioactive seeds. The radioactive source often used in the seeds is iodine125 (i.e. xenon124).

Other examples of therapeutic radioisotopes are copper67 (i.e. zinc68) and bromine77 (i.e. selenium77).

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Pain relief

Palliative care of pain arising from secondary metastasis derived from the spread of breast, prostate and lung cancers is under development. A number of radioisotopes are already being used on a regular basis, while the potential of other isotopes is being investigated. One such isotope is rhenium188, which is produced from tungsten186.

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