By Erika Jajcisinova – When I discovered physics at school, it was love at first sight. All these theories explaining everything around us. During my bachelor and master's studies at Comenius University in Bratislava, I developed an interest in nuclear physics. After completing my master thesis in nuclear structure, I noticed that I was missing something. I knew that I wanted to help people and one of the ways was through nuclear medicine. The way how these "invisible" particles can diagnose diseases and treat humans may seem like magic to many.
When I saw the opportunity to collaborate with top institutions, KU Leuven and Joint Research Centre in Karlsruhe, I couldn't resist. This PhD topic was exactly what I was looking for. After starting my PhD, I got introduced to this field. I learned about so many ways how nuclear physics can be used for diagnostics and treatment. What was even more appealing is the space for improvement. The PRIMAP community is a great idea. The research in novel techniques for theragnostic purposes is still ongoing and connecting research centres all across Europe. It supplies radionuclides to all the people that show interest. I am blessed to be a part of such a strong collaboration.
In my research, I am focussing on the production of Ac-225 for applications in nuclear medicine specifically for targeted alpha therapy. In this field, Lu-177 is widely used as radionuclide. As I mentioned before, there is still space for improvement. One of the options is Ac-225. This isotope decays by emitting 4 alpha particles with energies between 5-6 MeV that deposits their energy in a very short range at the end of their path. Because of this, they provide better energy deposition in the cancer cells and the amount of activity used for such treatment was significantly decreased. As expected, Ac-225 showed better efficacy than Lu-177 in the clinical studies. This started an extreme rise in demand which went faster that the current production. Many research facilities are trying to find a way how to increase the production of this isotope.
During my PhD studies, I am trying to find a way how to increase this production. Firstly, by exploring the production way of highly energetic proton interaction with Uranium Carbide target using the ISOL method at CERN-ISOLDE. The aim is to characterise and optimise production and determine the possible contribution to the supply. Another way that I plan to investigate is the production of Ac-255 from the Ra-226 target. This target can provide direct and indirect supply of actinium. This would open many more ways of increasing production and making it available in many medical centres across the world.
Thanks to the support and collaboration of all these institutions, I hope we will help to meet the demand soon and make this treatment available for everyone who needs it.
Erika earned her Master’s degree in Nuclear Physics from Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia in 2022. She recently started her PhD studies at KU Leuven, Belgium in the interdisciplinary group of the Institute for Nuclear and Radiation Physics (IKS). To gain even more expertise, she will spend half of her time at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in Karlsruhe, Germany. Her graduate work focusses on increasing the supply of Ac-225 radionuclide for use in nuclear medicine.