Cancer researchers at the University of Maryland announced yesterday that they will soon be using radioactive material from Russia's nuclear stockpile to study a new approach to tumors.
The radioactive isotope, called actinium, is in scarce supply in the United States. Scientists at the university are getting the material in several shipments as part of a federally funded partnership with Russian oncologists and scientists, the American Russian Cancer Alliance.
The exotic isotope is appealing to researchers because its rays are powerful but go a shorter distance than other isotopes' rays.
It has been studied with blood-borne cancers such as leukemia, but scientists at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and School of Medicine are working on it with solid tumors. They have developed an approach to directly deliver the isotope to tumors and kill the blood vessels that feed them.
"If these studies go well and we need more of this material, the Russians will be able to supply us with much more material than is available in the United States," said Dr. Bruce Line, director of nuclear medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
Researchers are also interested in other agents the Russians produce, Line noted, such as isotopes used for other therapies and tests.