Lutetium-177 for therapy
For some years, Lu-177 has been used in the treatment of neuroendocrine tumours and / or metastases, such as those that occur in the pancreas. Lu-177 is in this case coupled to a protein molecule, a so-called “ferry”, and thus moves directly into the tumour. Lu-177 is a beta emitter (an electron or a positron is emitted) with the very low range of about two millimeters, which means that healthy tissue remains virtually undamaged.
At the FRM II, Lu-177 is produced from the irradiation of Ytterbium-176 (Yb-176) through a very short-lived nuclide Yb-177, which quickly decays to Lu-177. This process guarantees pure Lu-177 (free of Lu-176) which can then be used without a carrier. This means less radioactive waste for clinics and the preparation can be used for a longer time since, even after 7-10 days, it still contains a sufficient amount of therapeutically active Lu-177.
This technically very complex method was developed by Radiochemistry Munich RCM, which is also a scientific institute based at the TUM, and is utilized commercially today by the ITM Isotopic Technologies AG Munich on the site of the FRM II.
A video depicts the complex production of Lu-177.