In some welcome news, a subsidiary of the French nuclear giant Areva revealed it had received US clearance to begin a clinical trial of an isotope that targets cancer cells.
"Lead-212 is a rare radioactive isotope that lies at the heart of promising nuclear medical research to develop new cancer treatments," Areva Med said in a statement.
"This innovative approach, known as alpha radio-immunotherapy, specifically pinpoints and destroys cancer cells while limiting toxicity to healthy cells."
The phase one trial, which assesses safety, will begin in 2011 and take about two years. The treatment's primary target will be pancreatic cancer, a company spokesman said.
"This landmark FDA authorization is a very important step that could lead to a potential treatment for very aggressive and lethal cancers," said Jacques Besnainou, CEO of Areva North America.
A Food and Drug Administration spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the authorization, saying the agency does not comment on clinical trials that are under way or about to begin.
Areva announced last year the construction of a facility to produce lead-212 in the Limousin region of France.