Feds commit $3M for isotope research
Approximately 1.6 million tests using medical isotopes are performed annually in Canada and about 85 per cent of these tests use technetium. Sandy McEwan, professor and chair of the Department of Oncology with the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, says these tests range from diagnosis of cancer to heart and kidney diseases.
“This cyclotron, located at the U of A, will attract new researchers to the province, build knowledge capacity and lead to new training opportunities for scientists, technicians and technologists,” said McEwan.
McEwan and his team will work on validating the development of technologies using cyclotron-based manufacturing methods. They will also work to better enhance the production process of technetium and to potentially introduce this technology into daily clinical practice.
Technetium is used as a scanning agent to help diagnose and plan treatments for patients with a range of medical conditions including cancer and heart and kidney diseases. Technetium is only produced in a few aging reactor facilities in Canada, Europe and South Africa. Even with a single reactor out of commission, supply cannot meet demand, leading to cancelled medical tests.
Researchers are optimistic about the cyclotron. In 2002, the Cross Cancer Institute installed one to manufacture radiopharmaceuticals for PET scanning, which is a relatively new, sensitive test for evaluating patients with cancer. These PET radiopharmaceuticals are shipped to hospitals in Edmonton, Winnipeg and Calgary.
“This project,” said McEwan, “has the potential to develop a research group in medical cyclotron research at the University of Alberta that is an international leader and to attract students and researchers to the faculty.”