A $17 million agreement has been signed to expand Idaho National Engineering Laboratory research on the cancer treatment called “boron neutron capture therapy” beyond the rare brain tumor it originally focused on.
The deal will link Lockheed Martin Idaho Technologies Co. in eastern Idaho with researchers from Ionix Corp. of Edmonds, Wash., and Washington State University.
“We’re not just addressing brain cancer,” Ionix executive Brian R. Griffin said Tuesday. “We are looking at a wide range of malignancies.”
In the treatment, a tumor is injected with a drug containing non-radioactive boron. The tumor then is bombarded with a neutron beam, causing the boron to become radioactive so it destroys the cancerous cells without harming surrounding tissue.
INEL has been involved since 1986 in research on the treatment, which has been provided in Japan for a special brain cancer afflicting only a few thousand Americans annually.
The cooperative research agreement is intended to develop the process into a cost-effective treatment for a much broader range of cancers, including lung and prostate.A new generation of drugs will be tested to determine their suitability for human use not only in the existing treatment but also in a conventional fast neutron cancer treatment.
The U.S. Department of Energy has earmarked $5 million for the research. The remaining $12 million in cash and in-kind services will come from private sources.
Most of the research will be conducted at INEL. But work also will occur in WSU, where a reactor will be converted for treatment of brain cancer patients.