Team makes technetium isotopes on existing cyclotrons in Ontario, BC
VANCOUVER, Feb. 20, 2012 /CNW/ - At a special session at the annual
meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, a
team led by TRIUMF announced the successful production of the key
medical isotope technetium-99m on cyclotrons already available in
Ontario and British Columbia. This development allows hospitals and
clinics with existing cyclotrons to make the isotope traditionally only
available from nuclear reactors. The team includes TRIUMF, BC Cancer
Agency, Lawson Health Research Institute, and the Centre for Probe
Development and Commercialization.
Paul Schaffer, head of TRIUMF's Nuclear Medicine Division and one of the
team leaders, said, "Making medical isotopes in hospitals instead of
nuclear reactors is a major milestone for diagnostic imaging for
patients in Canada and around the world. We took the principles of
physics, chemistry, and engineering that people have known for years,
and used them to write a recipe for upgrading a cyclotron so it could
be used to make technetium-99m. We've just completed using that recipe
on machines in both Ontario and BC."
Each year, tens of millions of medical procedures are conducted around
the world with technetium-99m, an isotope used in radiopharmaceuticals
for imaging disease in the heart, bones, and elsewhere in the body.
Two ageing nuclear reactors produce about three quarters of the global
supply; one of them is the NRU reactor in Chalk River. In the past few
years, both reactors have suffered maintenance and repair outages,
threatening the global supply of medical isotopes. The conventional
technology with reactors also involves the use of highly enriched
Tom Ruth, senior scientist at TRIUMF and the BC Cancer Agency and
principal investigator for the team said, "One of these cyclotrons can
supply a metro area such as Vancouver and there are more than a dozen
of these cyclotrons in hospitals across Canada. What we've shown is
that a decentralized model for producing technetium is now possible.
We are in discussions with several industrial partners and regional
health authorities about how to start implementing this vision. The
science and the technology are essentially ready."
"As this technology is rolled out across Canada, it will help hospitals
save time and money, and reduce the wait that patients have been
experiencing for critical diagnostic tests," added team member Francois
Benard, BC Leadership Chair in Functional Cancer Imaging at UBC and
senior scientist at the BC Cancer Agency.
With early support from NSERC and CIHR and additional funding through
NRCan's Non-reactor-based Isotope Supply Contribution Program, the
TRIUMF-led team has succeeded in developing an alternative
technology---one that makes use of existing cyclotron machines at
Canadian hospitals and institutes across the country. The core of the
technology includes preparing solid targets of molybdenum-100 and
placing them in an automated system for irradiation with the
cyclotron. The team developed these tools along with chemistry that
isolates and purifies the technetium-99m.
Benard explained, "The goal was to develop a technical solution that
would work for many people, not just one machine or one brand of
machine. Our team has demonstrated that the existing and growing fleet
of cyclotrons in Canada---which already make isotopes for PET
imaging---can be successfully used to make high quality technetium-99m
to diversify the supply of this isotope."
The team achieved a global first with the production of technetium on a
GE cyclotron. Frank Prato, a member of the team and the director and
founder of the Lawson Health Research Institute said, "It has been a
delight to work with the entire team. We achieved a global first with
the demonstrated production of technetium on a GE cyclotron. Almost
half of the existing cyclotrons in the U.S. are GE machines."
SOURCE TRIUMF (Canada's National Laboratory of Particle and Nuclear Physics)
For further information:
Dr. Tim Meyer
Head, Strategic Planning & Communications