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DefinitionRadioisotopes FAQ's
FAQ'sYour doctor says "You have cancer." You ask your doctor "What can you do for me?" For solid, confined tumors, seed implants containing short-lived radiation may be used. With radiation lasting a few hours or days and that travels a very short distance in tissue, cancer cells are targeted and "zapped" as healthy cells and the immune system are spared.

In Europe, physicians are being discouraged from prescribing chemotherapy. Targeted treatments, even for metastasized cancer, pair biological carriers like antibodies or peptides = protein segments, with medical radioactive isotopes. When these "smart bullets" latch onto cancer cells, radiation starts working. The main reported complication is "boredom", as fatal cancers disappear for many patients. Studies for prostate and breast cancer metastasized to bone and prostate and other cancers metastasized to other organs are ongoing with promising results in Europe. "I can treat any patient I wish", G. Paganelli, Director, European Institute of Oncology.

What about in this country? In the United States, a bone cancer study was cancelled due to a shortage of isotopes to treat less than 100 patients. The United States lacks the quantity, quality and variety of medical radioactive isotopes for even small numbers of study patients. In fact, 90% of all medical radioactive isotopes utilized in the US are imported.
 QuestionWhat cancers and conditions are they currently addressing with research and/or clinical trials utilizing medical radioactive isotopes?

AnswerAcute myelogenous leukemia, AIDS & others, Breast cancer, Bone cancer pain, Children's cancer, Colon cancer, Degenerative joint diseases, Endocrine cancer, Heart disease, Hodgkin's disease, Immune disorders, Meningitis, Non-Hodgkin's b-cell lymphoma, Non-small cell lung cancer, Ovarian cancer, Pancreatic cancer, Prostate cancer, and Rheumatoid arthritis ... to name a few.
 QuestionWhat is a medical radioactive isotope?Top of Page

AnswerA medical radioactive isotope is a very small quantity of radioactive substance used in safe, cost-effective imaging and treatment of disease. New technologies enable medical radioactive isotopes to be delivered directly to the site of diseased cells. This is different from external beam radiation treatment where radiation is directed from outside of the body.
 QuestionWho uses medical radioactive isotopes?Top of Page

AnswerThe medical specialty that utilizes medical radioactive isotopes for diagnosis and treatment is called nuclear medicine. The doctors that perform nuclear medicine procedures for cancer are called radiation oncologists.
 QuestionWhat can medical radioactive isotopes do in diagnosis?Top of Page

AnswerRadioisotopes give off energy that can be detected by special equipment. When small quantities are introduced into the body, the imaging equipment tracks their location and movement. This enables the doctors to learn more about the diseased tissues than a diagnostic procedure that just takes a picture from the outside. Medical radioactive isotope diagnostic procedures often facilitate an earlier and more complete disease diagnosis and therefore more rapid and effective treatment.
 QuestionWhat can medical radioactive isotopes do in cancer treatment?Top of Page

AnswerThe energy given off by radioisotopes is very effective at zapping diseased cells. When they are delivered straight to the cancer cells, healthy tissues are spared while cancer cells are eliminated. Medical radioactive isotopes are delivered to the cancer cells in several different ways.
 QuestionWhat different types of medical radioactive isotope treatments are there?Top of Page

AnswerBrachytherapy is a form of cancer treatment where tiny "seeds" containing medical radioactive isotopes are accurately placed within and near a tumor. Brachytherapy is FDA approved and used for localized prostate cancer, liver cancer, head and neck cancers, gynecological cancers and others.

Radio Immunotherapy is a type of treatment where doctors inject antibodies that have radioisotopes attached like little backpacks. The antibodies (called monoclonal antibodies) then flow through the bloodstream and attach themselves to the cancerous cells. The energy from the medical radioactive isotopes is thus targeted straight to the cancer. This type of treatment is showing great promise for blood cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. Most Radio immunotherapy treatments are still in clinical trials.

Medical radioactive isotopes can also be directed to cancerous cells by a carrier that has an attraction to a certain part of the body. Chemical phosphonates can be paired with medical radioactive isotopes and sent to the bone, since phosphonate is a natural building block of bone matrix. FDA approved treatments for pain associated with cancer that has spread to the bone are based on this delivery system. The medical radioactive isotope Iodine has been used for thyroid treatment for years because the isotope itself is naturally attracted to the thyroid.
 QuestionWhere are medical radioactive isotopes produced?Top of Page

AnswerMedical radioactive isotopes are produced in either accelerators or nuclear reactors. Today, the United States imports about 90% of the medical radioactive isotopes used in hospitals and clinics. Our supply of medical radioactive isotopes is at risk to global conditions and the internal conditions of other countries.
 QuestionDo we have sufficient supplies of medical radioactive isotopes to meet growing demands?Top of Page

AnswerNO. A few key isotopes with the potential to take cancer therapy to a new level of effectiveness are simply not available. The researchers who want to explore their potential are unable to do so. In addition, the success of treatments currently in clinical trials and awaiting FDA approval could usher in a serious supply problem once FDA approval is obtained. The end result could be patients unable to be treated with an effective therapy.

Demand for medical radioactive isotopes are projected to grow in the range of 8% to 20% per year for the next 20 years. Current U.S. production resources are not adequate to meet the increasing needs for use of the isotopes in research, diagnosis, and treatment.
 QuestionAre there any other diseases treatable with medical radioactive isotopes?Top of Page

AnswerYES. Medical radioactive isotopes are proving very helpful in treating cardiovascular disease. They effectively prevent re-clogging of arteries (restenosis) when used in conjunction with angioplasty (balloon therapy). Rheumatoid arthritis is commonly treated in Europe with injections of medical radioactive isotopes.

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