What are medical isotopes used for?

One of the principal uses of medical isotopes is for diagnostic imaging procedures in the human body. Radioactive isotopes such as technetium-99m (Tc-99m), a daughter isotope of Mo-99, are light-producing elements used in nuclear medicine imaging. When introduced into the patient’s body for medical diagnostic procedures, these radioisotopes help doctors examine how their patients’ various tissues and internal organs are functioning. Some examples of diagnostic nuclear medicine include imaging coronary blood flow to diagnose deep vein thrombosis, coronary artery disease, or other cardiovascular disease. The radioactive emissions of certain medical isotopes can also be used in therapeutics, especially cancer therapeutics. Some applications of medical radioisotopes to treat disease include treating thyroid cancer and early-stage prostate cancer. Radioactive medical isotopes which strongly emit alpha or beta radiation for very brief periods can be used to destroy cancer cells in tumors, for example. Such procedures are referred to as “radiation therapy.”

Medical isotopes also play a role in sterilizing medical equipment. Longer-lived medical isotopes with more intense radioactivity are packaged as sealed radiation sources and their emissions are used to kill bacteria and other microorganisms on reusable tools and equipment in between uses.


Diagnostic uses of medical isotopes

SPECT (single-photon emission computerized tomography) and PET (positron emission tomography) scans are the two most commonly used diagnostic imaging procedures using medical isotopes. Both of these diagnostic nuclear medicine imaging procedures are critical for detecting life-threatening conditions and have a wide range of uses in cardiology, musculoskeletal imaging, neurology, and more. Bone and cardiovascular disease, tumors, bacterial infections, and even neurological issues can be diagnosed using these diagnostic nuclear imaging methods, which depend on medical isotopes. Tc-99m is critical for SPECT scans because it emits photons in the form of gamma rays, while other positron-emitting isotopes are used for PET scans. Click here to learn more about diagnostic procedures using medical isotopes.

Therapeutic uses of medical isotopes

Radiopharmaceutical therapy is at the forefront of precision cancer treatment. By harnessing medical isotopes to destroy diseased cancer cells with limited damage to nearby healthy cells, nuclear medicine offers potentially life-saving radiation therapy treatments where previous treatments failed or had significant negative consequences to the patient. In targeted cancer therapy, a cancer-killing radioisotope such as Lu-177 is paired with a cancer-seeking molecule to form a smart compound that directly irradiates cancer cells. While Lu-177 is currently the only such isotope approved for use by the FDA to destroy cancer cells, we believe that further research will show other isotopes as being useful for therapeutic nuclear medicine treatments as well.

We believe our vertically integrated therapeutic radioisotope production process is the best on the market due to our uniquely scalable and efficient nuclear separation technique to extract non-carrier-added Lu-177 and other radioisotopes. This process will provide a sustainable and cost-effective option for therapeutic medical isotope production for use in nuclear medicine procedures to treat health conditions such as thyroid cancer.

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