Lab Lines

Lab Lines

REDC campaign: Neutrons vs cancer

Researchers have touted the chargeless neutron mostly for its near-magical analytical properties. A development campaign currently under way at the Chemical Technology Division’s Radiochemical Engineering Development Center is aimed at providing neutrons for medical purposes as well.

REDC researchers are developing the technology to encapsulate highly radioactive californium-252 into 1 × 5 millimeter “seeds” that can be used in commercially available medical instruments, allowing greater use of the radioisotope for cancer treatment.

ORNL’s High Flux Isotope Reactor is one of the world’s few sources of Cf-252. The radioisotope, with a 2.7-year half-life, has proven useful in treating some forms of cancer because it is a strong neutron emitter. But its radioactive decay also makes it hard to deal with, says the Chemical Technology Division’s Bob Wham.

In fact, the seeds must be fabricated remotely in hot cells. REDC, Chem Tech’s pilot-scale radiochemical processing facility located adjacent to HFIR, is one of the few places such intricate remote development work can be performed.

“The medical community believes that the seeds can be adapted to current nuclear medicine technologies to treat a large number of cancer patients,” he says. “Californium is an alpha emitter, but the seeds’ double encapsulation protects the patient. It’s the neutrons that have the therapeutic effect.”

Neutrons, he explains, have no charge but do have mass. Neutrons are much more effective at killing cancer cells for comparable doses to the patients than gamma treatments, which leads to a higher survival rate for those patients treated with californium sources.

“In the past several months we have shipped some larger sources to Wayne State University, where clinical trials are being conducted using californium for cancer treatment,” Wham says. “Some, but not all, researchers think neutrons are more effective than gamma rays in cancer cell lethality.”

New west-end labs to serve life sciences

T he west end of the Lab will be seeing construction activity this coming spring. A new laboratory has been approved and funded as a general plant project.

According to Tony Medley, who manages the Lab infrastructure, the new building will house 10 laboratories to be used by researchers in the Life Sciences Division, and will be connected to dedicated office space located on the western end of the X-10 site in the Marilyn Lloyd Environmental and Life Sciences Complex. The spot is currently a parking lot west of Building 1061. The new building, 1060, will be connected to Building 1061.

The project is “full speed ahead,” says Medley.

Associate Director of Life Sciences and Environmental Technologies Dave Reichle says, “It’s the first step to relocating ORNL Life Sciences Division personnel now at Y-12. The next step identified in the DOE Facilities Plan is the proposal in FY 2001 to begin construction of the Laboratory for Comparative and Functional Genomics.” That facility would be a new home for ORNL’s mutant mouse colony.

Travel: Your upgrade is approved

O RNL staff members tend to spend a lot of time literally up in the air: Nearly $7 million in airline tickets were issued to ORNL staff members in FY 1998. On Jan. 4, American Express Travel Services took on the large task of being the provider for travel management and reservation services for both ORNL and Energy Systems.

Kathie Shearer, ORNL’s travel coordinator, says the new arrangement should amount to an upgrade for ORNL customers. “American Express’ goal is to get the phones answered,” she says. “Travelers won’t see a difference in how they arrange their travel except for improved quality and response time.”

Travel’s number is an easy-to-remember 241-XTRA. Office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. A new feature is a hotline number for off-hours emergencies: 1-800-519-6210. Calls to that number should be limited to emergencies, Shearer said, because ORNL is billed for the cost of handling them.

Shearer adds that the advantages of booking through Travel Services go beyond convenience. It can also save the Lab money because the Lab applies airline commissions on issued tickets toward defraying travel costs. “The more tickets we issue, the better the discounts we can get for you,” she says.