BARCELONA, Spain, 13th October 2019McMaster University’s Nuclear Reactor (CAN) and NRG (NL) announced today a unique collaboration between the Netherlands and Canada in the field of nuclear medicine.   

Working together, these two globally renowned research reactors will provide the world with the highest quality radioiodine (I-125), used for the treatment of prostate and other various types of cancers, at the highest level of reliability. 

The importance of readily available medical isotopes

An estimated 80% of people who suffer cancer at any times in their lives will receive some form of radiotherapy. This emphasizes the need for the availability of these treatments, which also reflects on the availability of a particular isotope in the case of brachytherapy. Prof. Dr. Coen Rasch, Radiologist-Oncologist at LUMC in Leiden in the Netherlands and Chairman of the Dutch Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (NVRO) states: “This is of utmost importance. The shortage of isotopes a couple of years ago clearly showed the vulnerability of a system which relies on only a few manufacturers worldwide. The field of short-running isotopes like I-125 is the first to suffer in such a situation.”

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men worldwide. Brachytherapy with iodine-125 (I-125), a radioactive isotope, is an established treatment and yields good results for treating patients with this cancer at an early stage. Access to I-125, was in great danger in 2017 as one of the I-125 producing reactors unexpectedly shut down. A worldwide shortage of the product required an acute and sustainable emergency solution. Canada and The Netherlands responded with their new collaboration.

Chris Heysel, Director of Nuclear Operations and Facilities at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, says discussions around the potential collaboration — specifically regarding the manufacturing and supply of I-125 – were escalated by the major global shortage of the life-saving treatement.  “With one of the three major suppliers ceasing its production of I-125, and the subsequent shutdown of another research reactor, we recognized that, together, we could address the shortage crisis and ensure a steady supply of this life-saving treatment. NRG also saw the impact to patients and our collaboration began. We immediately started a focussed assessment of the safety, technical and regulatory requirements needed to bring the project to fruition.”

Dual supply provides high quality and high reliablity

Within the medical isotope community, it is critical that the end user, the patient, receives the highest level of supply reliability. Thus, seed manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies have turned towards a dual supply set-up. Heysel emphasizes the importance of having two reactor based suppliers of I-125: “Reactors are like machines, so they need regular maintenance. What we offer as a team is that we can guarantee a constant, reliable supply of I-125. The end product derived from either reactor is identical and the health care industry consistently receives a very high quality product.” Heysel continues: “The arrangement between NRG and MNR will provide our clients with ‘one-stop-shopping’ access to the dual supply they require. Our reputations – along with our ability to work seamlessly and collaboratively – position us perfectly to lead in this global healthcare space.”

Looking forward   

Based on the reputations of both organizations, it is clear that together MNR and NRG represent a strong team, and the most reliable supply chain of I-125 in the world. NRG and MNR share a dedicated and patient-focussed approach to operations; it drives them, not only towards reliability of supply but also to ensuring the highest level of quality for the patient. Prof. Dr. Coen Rasch, LUMC, the Netherlands summarises: “Collaboration between consortia such as Nuclear Research and consultancy Group (NRG) in the Netherlands and McMaster University’s Nuclear Reactor in Canada to strengthen the system is good, as there is worldwide demand for reliable supply.”

Production is set to begin in Spring 2020.