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Radionuclide treatment against small tumors and metastases
Date:6/16/2011

This release is available in German.

A cancer diagnosis is not necessarily a death sentence. There are now quite a number of possibilities to treat cancer. In addition to radiotherapy and chemotherapy, so-called radionuclide treatment has also become an important component in the fight against the mutated cells. It involves injecting radioactive elements, so-called nuclides, into the patient's circulatory system. Bonded to special molecules which preferentially attach themselves to cancer cells, the nuclides are pumped through the body by the heart until they finally find their target: a cancer cell. Having arrived there, they attach themselves to its cell walls, decay and thus release radiation into their surroundings. This attacks the cancer cells at close range and ideally destroys them.

Lutetium-177 is a nuclide already used for clinical applications. As it decays, fast electrons, so-called beta particles, are generated. In human tissue they have a range of up to 100 micrometers, five times the diameter of a tumor cell. They can therefore also damage healthy tissue in the vicinity. Dr. Silvia Lehenberger, a radiochemist at the TUM, has now succeeded in producing the Terbium-161 nuclide pure enough and in quantities sufficient for therapeutic applications. The nuclide emits not only the beta particles, but also conversion and Auger electrons, which have a range of only 0.5 to 30 micrometers. Their ranges match the size of tumor cells, making them ideal for the treatment of small tumors and metastases. "Moreover, the nuclide has a higher energy content than comparable particles," explains Silvia Lehenberger. "This means smaller doses can be administered to the patient, which in turn means a reduction in the radiation exposure."

Like lutetium or neodymium, which is familiar from high-power magnets, terbium is one of the so-called rar
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Contact: Dr. Andreas Battenberg
battenberg@zv.tum.de
49-892-891-0510
Technische Universitaet Muenchen
Source:Eurekalert  

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