Radioactive 'Litvinenko drug' could be used by the NHS to fight prostate cancer - but what is it?

New radioactive drug could be used by the NHS to treat prostate cancer, but what is it?

A new cancer drug could be useful for patients who are too weak for chemotherapy

Friday, September 2, 2016

A new radioactive drug, similar to that used to assassinate former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, could be available on the NHS from December to help treat prostate cancer which has spread to the bones.

The drug, named Radium-223 dichloride, emits radiation, the same as the polonium-210 used to kill the spy.

However, this drug, marketed as Xofigo, targets tumours that have spread to the bones, blasting them with alpha particles. It is made from a mildly radioactive form of the metal radium.

The drug is administered by an infusion into the bloodstream, and has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for routine use on the NHS.

Treatment would involve one monthly dose for a total period of six months. Previously it had only been recommended for use alongside an additional drug, generically named docetaxel.

It is hoped the new treatment will be particularly effective for those too unwell for chemotherapy.

In high doses it could destroy organs and body tissue, but used in a targeted way could wipe out the cancer in patients.

One course of treatment is estimated to cost £24,240. 

Figures show one in eight men will be affected by prostate cancer in their lifetime and an estimated 47,000 are diagnosed with the disease each year.