DOE Isotope Program Announces Availability of Radium-224/Lead-212 Generators

The DOE Isotope Program (DOE IP) is pleased to announce the availability of radium-224/lead-212 generators. Lead-212 (10.6 hour half-life) and its daughter bismuth-212 (60.6 minute half-life) are of interest in targeted alpha-particle therapy of cancer, including breast and ovarian cancers and melanoma. Research in progress is demonstrating the effectiveness of these isotopes in destroying cancer cells while limiting damage to healthy cells due to specific biological targeting of the isotopes to the cancer cells and the short range of alpha particles in tissue.

In response to the discontinuation of availability of these generators from a private initiative that had attempted to commercialize generator production, the DOE IP initiated the establishment of a production capability at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) through the recovery of thorium-228 from uranium-232. The thorium-228 (1.9 year half-life) serves as a cow for the provision of its decay product radium-224 (3.7 day half-life) which is loaded on a generator from which either lead-212 or bismuth-212 can be eluted. The radium-224 generator, using the same design as the ORNL actinium-225/bismuth-213 generator, has been tested by two researchers with extensive experience in lead-212/bismuth-212 targeted therapy and has been found to perform exceptionally well. The generator (see figures below) is now routinely available for ordering through the National Isotope Development Center catalog. Generators are shipped with instructions for eluting lead-212 and bismuth-212.

Increasing the availability of alpha-emitters for medical research was the highest priority recommendation of the Nuclear Science Advisory Committee's report "Compelling Research Opportunities using Isotopes".

In addition to the routine provision of actinium-225, thorium-227, and radium-223, investing in research on accelerator production of actinium-225, and supporting development and production of astatine-211 at several universities, the production of radium-224/lead-212 generators now provides a pathway for researchers' utilization of all of the most-promising alpha-emitters for therapy of cancer and other diseases.