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New GE Hitachi Deal Could Help Fight Cancer

By Staff Reports, posted Jan 19, 2010

GE Hitachi’s technology will soon be used to increase the supply of important, cancer-treating isotopes.

According to a press release from GE Hitachi, the company made a deal with Exelon Generation Co. to deploy the isotope-generation technology.

Seeking to address a growing demand for the domestic and global supply of cobalt-60, a radioisotope used for treating cancer and other biomedical applications, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy (GEH) and Exelon Generation Co. have agreed to a landmark deal to deploy GEH’s isotope generation technology, according to the release.

“Without key isotopes like cobalt-60, potentially life-threatening diseases could go untreated,” said Dr. Robert Atcher, former president of the Society of Nuclear Medicine in the release. “Developing a U.S. domestic supply of isotopes capable of meeting demands is imperative to the well-being of the U.S. population.”

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has approved a license amendment permitting the use of GEH’s technology at Exelon Nuclear’s Clinton Power Station, a single-unit, boiling water reactor plant in Dewitt County, Ill. Installation of GEH technology for the pilot project will occur during Clinton’s current planned maintenance and refueling outage, according to the release.

The collaborative venture comes at a time of heightened concerns about the domestic availability of radioisotopes. The American Nuclear Society has noted an urgent need for a reliable, domestic source of radioisotopes to sustain the nation’s growing healthcare needs. While the United States’ national laboratories produce a small amount of cobalt-60, today there is no large-scale, commercial, domestic production source.

Cobalt-60 is used as a radiation source in cancer therapy. The International Irradiation Association estimates that 15 million cancer treatments are carried out using cobalt-60 each year in hospitals and clinics in over 80 countries. More than 500,000 brain cancer treatments have been performed using cobalt-60.

“It is exciting to see companies like GEH and Exelon leveraging one another's expertise to develop and bring technologically advanced, innovative solutions to the medical isotope community,” Atcher said in the release.

“We view this as an opportunity for Exelon to support an important medical technology that saves people’s lives,” said Charles Pardee, Exelon Nuclear president and chief nuclear officer.

In addition to cancer treatment, cobalt-60 is used to preserve food, decontaminate packaging materials, sanitize cosmetics and purify pharmaceuticals. More than 40 percent of U.S.-manufactured medical devices, including syringes and bandages, are cleaned and/or sterilized using cobalt-60.

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