Iridium-192 (Ir-192) is a radioactive isotope. It is a gamma emitter and has a half-life of 74 days. In the medical world, iridium-192 is most commonly used to fight cancer cells. The irradiation source is placed inside the body, this is called brachytherapy.
More information about iridium-192?
The main application of iridium-192 is in gynaecology, including the treatment of cervical cancer.
It is possible to irradiate prostate cancer internally. This can be done using iridium or iodine seeds. The conditions are that the tumour is not too large, and that the cancer has not yet spread to other parts of the body.
Head and neck cancer is a collective name for malignant tumors in the head and neck area. This includes tumors in the oral cavity, such as tongue carcinomas, tumors localized in the palate and cheek, but also oropharyngeal carcinomas.
Iridium-192 can be applied in brachytherapy. Brachytherapy is a form of internal radiation, directly at the tumour. This therapy is administered by specialised doctors only, usually radiotherapists. Using the so-called afterloader, a device to handle the radioactive material safely, the radiation source can be placed next to or into the tumour. Once it has been placed, the radiation source can destroy the tumour from a short distance.
Depending on the size, shape and location of the tumour, the source of radiation will be removed from the patient’s body after a few minutes. This is an effective way to treat the tumour, without an operation. The patient and the healthy tissue will not be exposed to radiation any longer than strictly necessary.
Brachytherapy is a therapy that requires great accuracy of the isotope being used. NRG can guarantee the required quality thanks to extensive experience in Ir-192 production and thanks to our direct access to the correct and safe nuclear infrastructure.
On the same site in Petten, NRG’s customer Curium process the radioactive Ir-192 into sources: metal parts the size of a grain of rice. Curium sends the Ir-192 sources to its customers, the producers of afterloaders also known as the suppliers of brachytherapy solutions. This is how the isotopes find their way across the world via Curium. In the hospital the sources are applied in brachytherapy to treat cancer. The doctor (radiotherapist) uses a special machine to perform the treatment safely; this machine is the afterloader.
Ir-192 has a half-life of 74 days. This means that after 74 days only half of the Ir-192 is left in the radiation source. At that point the source in the afterloader will have to be replaced. One source can be used for a longer period of time, and can be applied for multiple patients.