CERN’s findings in the battle against cancer

The new MEDICIS facility of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) produced for the first time radioisotopes for hospitals and research centers in Europe. MEDICIS unit is aimed at providing a wide range of radioisotopes, some of which can only be produced at CERN thanks to its unique ISOLDE nuclear physics facility.

ISOLDE, part of CERN’s Proton-Synchrotron Booster (PSB) accelerator plant, is an isotope mass separator that produces a wide range of radioactive ions for different experiments. MEDICIS (Medical Isotopes Collected from ISOLDE – Medical isotopes collected by ISOLDE) will help scientists and doctors find new ways to use radioisotopes for imaging, diagnostic and radiotherapy purposes, in particular to combat cancer and diagnose of heart diseases.

A chemical element may exist in several variations or isotopes depending on the number of its neutron nuclei. Some isotopes are radioactive by nature and for this reason they are called radioisotopes. Some exist in nature from rocks to drinking water, while others can only be produced in particle accelerators.

The MEDICIS unit uses the high volume proton beam of ISOLDE. The first batch of radioisotopes it produced is an isotope of the terbium chemical element (Terbium 155Tb), which is considered a promising radioisotope for the diagnosis of prostate cancer.