Now going into clinical trials for specific types of cancer, Alpha Tau’s technology shows potential for treating any solid tumor

Alpha radiation startup eliminates 70% of cancerous tumors

By —— Bio and Archives--January 9, 2019

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Alpha radiation startup eliminates 70% of cancerous tumors
Alpha Tau is working toward commercializing its alpha radiation therapy technology to treat malignant tumors. Photo: courtesy

A breakthrough Israeli technology that eliminates cancerous tumors in 70 percent of patients was nearly lost in bureaucracy and university politics.


Fifteen years ago, Professors Yona Keisari and Itzhak Kelson of Tel Aviv University discovered a way to use alpha radiation to zap tumors. Their approach was revolutionary – alpha radiation is so powerful it can snap both strands of a cancer cell’s DNA, but it won’t harm surrounding healthy tissue as other types of radiation do.

However, alpha radiation can’t travel more than about 50 microns (1/20 of a millimeter) inside human tissue. Treating a tumor of, say, 5cm would require hundreds of thousands of alpha particles – a seeming impossibility.

Keisari and Kelson discovered that, when delivered via a particular isotope of the element radium, alpha radiation can travel as far as 3mm. The isotope, Radium 224, releases atoms that diffuse inside a tumor and then emit their own alpha particles. This approach requires far fewer alpha particles to kill a tumor.

The professors and Tel Aviv University patented the technology in 2003. More research was conducted and 12 peer-reviewed papers were published. But squabbling between the various stakeholders over the intellectual property kept their breakthrough in limbo until 2015 when Uzi Sofer was recruited to sort things out.

Sofer had an impressive track record in medical technology. He previously cofounded and served as CEO of Brainsway, which develops treatments using transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) for depression, PTSD, OCD and other brain disorders and addictions. The company grew under his leadership from two to 70 employees.—More…


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