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.
The video depicts the complex production of Lu-177: