In all of the excitement last week, I fear that I failed to mention a new experiment starting up which is lead by of two of my former employer institutions. For now I can only outline the project, but it is my hope to give a more detailed explanation when the first results are published. (Not because of any restrictions right now, but rather because I have been too busy with other projects to compile and compose a proper review for this blog).

There is an ongoing problem in (some) branches of medical physics in that radioactive isotopes are required for treatment of certain illnesses (primarily cancer)  but each has quite different properties. The substance must produce enough radiation damage to kill the bad cells but at the same time if it is too strong it will kill healthy cells - so the ideal isotope must have the right radioactivity for each use. The isotope also needs to last long enough that it can be produced, transported to the hospital or clinic, sterilized, used in treatment, and allowed to do its job all before it decays away. But if it lasts too long, then the patient and anyone in contact with the patient would get unintentional radiation. As you can imagine, it is not easy to find an isotope which is perfect in all of these areas.

And so this new experiment will be producing different isotopes, some of which haven't been well studied before, in the hope of finding one which will be more effective for treatment while causing less collateral damage. Ideally it should last long enough to be produced in the experiment and transported to whichever facility needs it, but then die away quickly after use. Will they find it? Only time can really say, but I think that with the number of candidates that will be studied the odds are good that they will improve on the current selection.

It could be an interesting advance for medical physics and for the treatment of many illnesses, and it is indeed an experiment worth watching. I will report further when they start releasing data.