Argentina and its advances in nuclear medicine: a revolution in the treatment of complex tumors

Last year, the “Accelerator for Health” project won the award in the “Innovative Design” category. He was also awarded the “Great Innovate Distinction” (Fernando Calzada).

There are some types of cancer that cannot be treated radiotherapy Traditional. To treat these types of tumors that are spreading, invasive, or even more resistant to gamma radiation, doctors andres craner And his team is attempting a very effective treatment, which is dominated by only a few countries: boron neutron capture therapy ,bnctfor its abbreviation in English).

doctor cranierNuclear physicist, hosts the program “Accelerator for Life” at the National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEA), The goal is to develop and establish a Particle accelerator Completely manufactured in our country. They already have a modular machine installed components of nuclear reactorand in 2022 they exported that technology Korean Institute of Radiology and Medical Sciences ,Kirams), located in Seoul.

Andres Kreiner is a nuclear physicist and leads the “Accelerator for Life” program at the National Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEA). The goal is to develop and install a particle accelerator completely manufactured in our country (Fernando Calzada)

As a general principle, ionizing radiation For the purpose of use in radiotherapy destruction of tumor cell DNA, which is the molecule that transmits genetic information. “Radiotherapy techniques where a beam of photons or protons have a direct effect on the patient, they are useful only tumor Are Well demarcated and geometrically defined“, Pure.

However, he explained: “There are other types Tumor in which tumor cells invade an amount of healthy tissue, They are individual cells and there is no way to target them because at the cellular level there is still no way to create a map that allows the beam of rays to be targeted cell by cell.

in conversation with defCranor provided details of the new type of treatment, which is still in the experimental stage.

-How does Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) work?

-This bnct This is a much more sophisticated method, which is two step, The first phase involves “dope” selective tumor cells With a molecule that contains in its structure an isotope with the ability to capture neutrons. There are very few substances in nature with that capability. is one of these substances boron 10, Then, we should adequately selective drugwhich is in its molecular structure boron 10, Today there is one drug, borophenylalanine (BPA), which has been authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration and other similar institutions. This drug concentrates 3.5 times more boron 10 in tumor cells than in healthy cells. Due to their different metabolism, cancer cells They absorb more of this medicine, which is given intravenously. You will have to wait for about two hours The drug concentrates in the tumor tissue,

-What is the second step?

-Once we have patient In that situation, there It is irradiated with neutrons, neutrons interact boron 10, How does that interaction occur? Boron 10 captures a neutron and produces a transient, highly excited nucleus of boron 11, which splits into two highly ionizing particles. The microexplosion occurring in this interaction damages only the cell where boron 10 is concentrated. And protects the surrounding healthy tissues. This is one of the important issues of radiotherapy: to destroy the tumor while causing as little damage as possible to the surrounding tissues.

Accelerators complement reactors in the production of large neutron fluxes: “One of their very promising applications is the production of certain radioisotopes,” details Kreiner (Fernando Calzada).

-Why is it necessary to make accelerator in our country?

-This boron neutron capture therapy (BNCT) Its development began on the floor of reactors. In RA-6, at the Bariloche Nuclear Center, a clinical research program Which was very successful. However, a Limited This type of treatment requires strength Transfer patients to a reactorin a nuclear facility which is not a hospital and not ready For him. This is where they appear, such as OptionThe acceleratorwhich allows you to hospital-installable neutron source,

-How do particle accelerators work?

-Are electrical machines Which are used to accelerate particles. The simplest technique is electrostatic technology, which we dominate. What are we looking for in this CNEA Is Develop your own technology, A few years ago, we launched the idea of ​​developing our own accelerator, with significant relative success. we have developed a modular machine, with modules of the order of 120,000 volts. These modules are stacked and in this way, we add tension. About 1.5 million volts are required to accelerate the particles which will then impact a target and produce neutrons. Which will be used for this therapy.

-What was exported to South Korea? How did you become interested in the Argentinian Accelerator?

-The accelerator was conceived and developed in our country, with minor imported components. we sold one single module accelerator prototype In a South Korean institution. In 2019 they invited me to visit Korea, where a two-day workshop was conducted. He Kimars This is a research and development institute and I did not want to buy a “turnkey” machine where there was nothing to develop. They chose our machine and we signed it technological innovation contract, We go to Korea and install the machine in that institution, At the end of 2022, we will successfully conclude the contract.

The accelerator was designed as an option that allows neutron sources to be installed in hospitals (Fernando Calzada)

“We are focused on producing Lowest possible energy electrostatic machinewhich means lower costs, and that Does not produce residual radioactivityWhich is the big problem with reactors,” details the person responsible for the project. “Accelerator for Life”, Looking to the future, he assures, “Completing the project is important not only because it will allow us to meet our needs, but also because it is a export goodsAs we have already demonstrated.

To advance the project, a specialized laboratory for the development of accelerator technology is currently being created, which will Future should also work as Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) Development Center,

Beyond its application in BNCT today accelerator They complement reactors due to their ability to generate large neutron fluxes. “One of its most promising applications is Production of radioisotopeKrainer explains. Among them, he mentions technetium-99, one of the radioisotopes most used in radiodiagnosis and which is today produced only in reactors.

,The cost of accelerator is much lower than that of reactor, Being very simple from a radiological protection point of view, it is very easy to obtain a license for such a facility,” he summarized. In that sense, Nuclear Regulatory Authority (ARN) The constitution authorized the construction of the building at the nuclear center as a so-called “non-routine exercise” in the accelerator.

The “Accelerators for Life” program developed by Dr. Kreiner and his team at the Constituciones Nuclear Center aims to establish a particle accelerator in Argentina (Fernando Calzada)

On the other hand, within the framework of competition “New“from old Ministry of Science and TechnologyProject “Accelerator for Health” In 2023, it won an award in the “Innovative Design” category and was also awarded the “Great Innovate Distinction”. unfortunately, The state still owes them a total of $2,000,000 For both awards. “It was a recognition of our work by a special jury. This was an important encouragement and helps us move forward.Krainer concluded, looking to the future of the project with optimism.

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