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ORNL scientist working on a more targeted treatment for cancer

Knoxville WVLT-TV logo Knoxville WVLT-TV 9/23/2022 Erica Lunsford
ORNL Scientist © Provided by Knoxville WVLT-TV ORNL Scientist

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - Researchers at Oak Ridge National Lab (ORNL) were busy working on a new advancement in cancer treatment.

Associate Staff Scientist Nikki Thiele at ORNL said this type of treatment involves a chemical element called Radium-223.

“Radium 223 is actually currently used in the treatment of patients with cancer that spread to the bone. That’s because Radium sort of looks like the bone calcium to your body. And it’s just naturally taken up in the bone where it can sit there and sort of deposit a lethal payload of ionizing radiation,” shared Thiele.

She said this research could potentially provide a more precise treatment to cancer without damaging healthy cells, which can happen with chemotherapy and external beam radiation.

“What’s great about this targeted radiotherapy that we want to achieve here is it’s very specific. These radioactive emissions only go short path links in the body, and so if they are close to a cancer cell we can deliver them to a cancer cell. They’ll only kill the cancer cell and they won’t kill any surrounding tissue,” explained Thiele.

There’s no timetable as to when this type of radium therapy could be launched, as there’s still more research to be done.

“I hope that this basic science that we’re doing here at the lab can support the development of more effective cancer treatment strategies so that we can give patients better survival outcomes,” said Thiele.

For more information about ORNL radium chemistry to advance cancer treatments using ionizing radiation, click here.

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