Separation techniques for the recovery of radionuclides suitable for cancer therapy from extant nuclear materials

National Nuclear Laboratory
University of Manchester

Targeted Alpha Therapy (TAT) is a promising cancer treatment in nuclear medicine, but the supply of alpha-emitting radionuclides, which the treatment relies on, is very limited. Radionuclides for TAT are short-lived as they undergo rapid radioactive decay, which prevents stockpiling. The lack of alpha-emitting radionuclides available in the UK is preventing research and clinical trials, ultimately inhibiting future treatments for cancer patients.

However, the UK has accumulated legacy nuclear materials from which the necessary radionuclides could be extracted. Samantha’s project seeks to investigate the recovery of the alpha-emitting radionuclides needed for TAT from legacy nuclear materials at a suitably high level of efficiency and purity to allow for their concentration in a medium appropriate for clinical use.

Targeted Alpha Therapy attaches alpha-emitting radionuclides to carrier molecules that target specific tumours. The TAT carrier molecule is selective in identifying the targeted cancer cells through antigens expressed on the cancer cell surface. Alpha particles can only travel up to 10 cell diameters, meaning TAT can cause cell death to the diseased cells it targets while having no radiation effects on surrounding healthy tissue, making it a very promising treatment.

If successful, Samantha’s project could enable the UK to establish a domestic supply of radionuclides for TAT. This would initially enable lab-scale TAT research and subsequent clinical trials before potentially providing the necessary supply of radionuclides for TAT treatment for all eligible cancer patients.


Samantha graduated with a Master’s degree in Chemistry at Newcastle University before joining the National Nuclear Laboratory in 2017 in their Technical Graduate Programme. Since then, Samantha has work has covered Chemical and Process Modelling, Project Management and Waste and Residue Processing, where she is now undertaking her PhD in partnership with the University of Manchester.