Study Finds Better Way to Visualize PET Scan Results

Researchers have uncovered a new way to treat cancer that could lessen the side effects that patients often experience from chemotherapy. At the same time, it improves the curative power of radiation therapy.

The treatment is called targeted alpha-particle therapy (TAT), and researchers finally have a new way to measure its success, further proving its efficacy.


TAT uses antibodies to recruit drugs that contain radioactive materials. As these materials decay, radiation is emitted in the form of alpha particles. The antibodies then guide these particles to the cancer cells where they are directly impacted by the radiation.

The idea has been around for quite a while, but it was unclear exactly whether or not the therapy was hitting the cells it was supposed to. PET scans, used to examine this, only detect positron-emitting radioisotopes, not alpha-emitting, the type used in TAT.

Researchers believe they have now found a way to measure whether or not this treatment is directly impacting cancer cells. It’s all thanks to a new collaboration.

The Finding

Researchers have found that the radioisotope cerium-134 can showcase the pathway of TAT. It is now being mass produced.

The full data on this investigation can be found in Natural Chemistry.

This radioisotope was first proposed in the 1990s as a potentially useful element for use in PET scans. It is an abundant element found in the earth that could lead to improved imaging across the globe. However, research has taken so long because most research institutes don’t have their own nuclear physics, medicine, radiochemistry, and nuclear data experts to study this potential.

Thanks to collaboration between Berkley, the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and others, it was finally able to be done.

How it’s Produced

Cerium-134 is produced by inducing nuclear reactions by eliminating stable elements. This team used lanthanum. Then, the radioisotopes were processed and purified by separating the Cerium-134 from the lanthanum. This is done by removing one of the negatively charged electrons from the cerium.

The team conducted x-rays on the element following this process to ensure it had worked.

Miraculously, they had a yield of over 80%. This is enough to conduct several PET scans.

Looking Forward

Researchers are now investigating how to use alpha-emitting therapies for leukemia and prostate cancer.

So far, mouse models have shown positive results.

Now, the team plans on investigating different methods for attaching the antibodies to cerium-134. They will also continue using mouse models to showcase the therapeutic and diagnostic potential of this element.

Eventually, they hope that this research will lead to more personalized therapies for different patients, as it will be able to show how different individuals are responding to the same treatment.

You can read more about this new method here.

Share this post