The stable isotopes produced by URENCO are applied worldwide, in both medical markets and industrial markets.
Medical markets and products
Three segments of medical markets are currently being served by URENCO Diagnostics, Brachytherapy and Pain relief.
Nuclear diagnostic imaging has an important role in the identification and management of conditions such as heart disease, brain disorder, lung and kidney functions and a broad range of cancers. The high sensitivity and specificity of nuclear diagnostic imaging techniques offer the important advantages of being able to identify diseases at an early stage, to track disease progression, to allow for accurate disease staging and to provide predictive information about likely success of alternative therapy options.
The two most important techniques are Gamma Imaging and Positron Emission Tomography (PET).
There are some 8,500 nuclear medicine departments in the world using gamma cameras to detect diseases of various organs including heart, brain, bone, lung and the thyroid. A total of some 20,000 gamma cameras are in use. URENCO produces the stable precursors for Gallium-67 (i.e. Zinc-68 and Zinc-67), Indium-111 (i.e. Cadmium-112) and Iodine-123 (i.e. Xenon-124).
Positron Emission Tomography (PET)
There are about 200 PET centres in the world operating a total of some 300 PET cameras. They are used mainly for the diagnosis and staging of cancer. Use of PET Is growing as a result of the recognition of clinical benefits from PET.
Brachytherapy is the procedure of using temporary irradiation very close to the area of disease, in particular cancer and stenosis.
URENCO produces Iridium-191 for Iridium-192 sources used in remotely controlled afterloaders. A modern development pursued by many companies is Seeds Implantation: implanting radioactive sources ("seeds") in tumours, in particular prostate cancer. This minimises side effects known from surgery and/or external radiation. More than 300,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed every year in the US and the EU alone, and patients are increasingly being treated with seeds implantation. The radioactive source most often used in the seeds is Iodine-125 (made from Xenon-124). URENCO is an important supplier of Xenon-124.
Restenosis is the re-narrowing of a coronary artery after angioplasty treatment. This happens in about 30% of the patients within a few months after treatment, a percentage which can be dramatically reduced by restenosis treatment: the irradiation through brachytherapy of the area unblocked by angioplasty treatment. The treatment is yet far from standard procedure. Many tests are being conducted, including tests to determine what radioactive isotopes (and thus what precursors) are most suitable. URENCO currently provides small quantities of 186Tungsten, which is a precursor for 188Rhenium, a possible candidate for restenosis treatment.
Materials for Brachytherapy
A new development is to deplete Titanium-46. Natural Titanium is a suitable biocompatible material, which is being used to encapsulate radioactive seeds for brachytherapy, in particular for prostate cancer. Instead of the complicated process of sealing radioactive sources into Titanium capsules, it would be much easier to seal the stable precursors into Titanium capsules before irradiating the precursors. However, this would make it necessary to deplete the Titanium-46 isotope in order to eliminate the adverse radioactivity of activated Titanium-46 (Scandium-46). Under a government grant and in cooperation with other companies, URENCO has developed depleted Titanium-46 for this application.
Palliative care of pain arising from secondary metastasis derived from spread of breast, prostate and lung cancers is under development. Growth is rather slow due to the problem of acceptability and the conservatism amongst doctors preferring traditional medicines like morphine.