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ORNL, Georgia's Isotron develop promising new cancer treatment

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Jan. 30, 2003 Doctors treating incurable brain tumors and other cancers resistant to conventional therapies will soon have a new treatment available to them because of a development by Isotron of Alpharetta, Ga., and the Department of Energys Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The advantage of the treatment, called neutron brachytherapy, is that physicians can deliver a highly concentrated dose of californium-252 neutrons to the site of a tumor instead of having to treat the tumor with conventional gamma rays, which often are not as effective. This therapy has proved particularly useful against cancers that are resistant to photon and gamma treatments, which do not kill cancer cells as effectively as do the californium-252 neutrons.

Cancers most resistant to the conventional treatments include brain tumors, melanoma, sarcoma, certain types of prostate cancer, locally advanced breast cancer, cervical cancer and cancer of the head, neck and mouth.

The progress achieved with neutron brachytherapy will enable unprecedented cancer treatment and will help physicians treat nearly 20 different types of cancer, said co-developer Rodger Martin of ORNLs Nuclear Science and Technology Division.

The key to the ORNL success is the miniaturization of the californium-252 source, which allows physicians to insert the radioisotope through a catheter directly to the tumor site.

Martin and colleagues were able to reduce the diameter of the source by more than half from the previous standard of about 2.8 millimeters. This makes it possible to reach and treat tumors that previously could only be treated with conventional photon and gamma brachytherapy or with external beam treatments. ORNL and Isotrons success is the result of many months of development and testing that began in 1999 with the signing of a three-year cooperative research and development agreement.

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Contact: Ron Walli
Wallira@ornl.gov
865-576-0226
DOE/Oak Ridge National Laboratory
30-Jan-2003


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