First measurements of radon-220 diffusion in mice tumors, towards treatment planning in diffusing alpha-emitters radiation therapy

Guy Heger, Mirta Dumančić, Ishai Luz, Maayan Vatarescu, Noam Weizman, Brian W. Miller, Tomer Cooks, Lior Arazi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Diffusing alpha-emitters radiation therapy (“Alpha-DaRT”) is a new method for treating solid tumors with alpha particles, relying on the release of the short-lived alpha-emitting daughter atoms of radium-224 from interstitial sources inserted into the tumor. Alpha-DaRT tumor dosimetry is governed by the spread of radium's progeny around the source, as described by an approximate framework called the “diffusion-leakage model”. The most important model parameters are the diffusion lengths of radon-220 and lead-212, and their estimation is therefore essential for treatment planning. Purpose: Previous works have provided initial estimates for the dominant diffusion length, by measuring the activity spread inside mice-borne tumors several days after the insertion of an Alpha-DaRT source. The measurements, taken when lead-212 was in secular equilibrium with radium-224, were interpreted as representing the lead-212 diffusion length. The aim of this work is to provide first experimental estimates for the diffusion length of radon-220, using a new methodology. Methods: The diffusion length of radon-220 was estimated from autoradiography measurements of histological sections taken from 24 mice-borne subcutaneous tumors of five different types. Unlike previous studies, the source dwell time inside the tumor was limited to 30 min, to prevent the buildup of lead-212. To investigate the contribution of potential non-diffusive processes, experiments were done in two sets: fourteen in vivo tumors, where during the treatment the tumors were still carried by the mice with active blood supply, and 10 ex-vivo tumors, where the tumors were excised before source insertion and kept in a medium at (Formula presented.) with the source inside. Results: The measured diffusion lengths of radon-220, extracted by fitting the recorded activity pattern up to 1.5 mm from the source, lie in the range (Formula presented.), with no significant difference between the average values measured in in-vivo and ex-vivo tumors: (Formula presented.) versus (Formula presented.). However, in-vivo tumors display an enhanced spread of activity 2–3 mm away from the source. This effect is not explained by the current model and is much less pronounced in ex-vivo tumors. Conclusions: The average measured radon-220 diffusion lengths in both in-vivo and ex-vivo tumors are consistent with published data on the diffusion length of radon in water and lie close to the upper limit of the previously estimated range of (Formula presented.). The observation that close to the source there is no apparent difference between in-vivo and ex-vivo tumors, and the good agreement with the theoretical model in this region suggest that the spread of radon-220 is predominantly diffusive in this region. The departure from the model prediction in in-vivo tumors at large radial distances may hint at potential vascular contribution, which will be the subject of future works.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalMedical Physics
StateAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2024


  • DaRT
  • Targeted Alpha Therapy
  • alpha dose calculations

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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