Canadian Solution to Medical-Isotope Crisis Demonstrates that Cities Could Produce their own Medical Isotopes
VANCOUVER, June 9, 2013 /CNW/ – With Canadian-developed tools and
technology, a national team led by TRIUMF has reached a crucial
milestone at the BC Cancer Agency in developing and deploying
alternatives for supplying key medical isotopes. The team used a
medical cyclotron that was designed and manufactured by Advanced
Cyclotron Systems, Inc. (ACSI) of Richmond, BC, and successfully
achieved large-scale production of technetium-99m (Tc-99m), sufficient
for a metropolitan area.
The team announced the successful ramp-up of its technology to regularly
produce enough of the critical Tc-99m isotope to supply an urban area
the size of Vancouver. This achievement eliminates the need for
nuclear reactors to produce isotopes, especially those that use
weapons-grade uranium, which has been the traditional approach.
Paul Schaffer, head of TRIUMF’s Nuclear Medicine Division and principal
investigator for the project, said, “This achievement is a crucial step
on the road to meeting Canada’s isotope needs after the NRU ceases
production in 2016. This effort required teamwork and dedication from
many people.” In addition to TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for
particle and nuclear physics, the team includes experts at the BC
Cancer Agency, the Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization
(CPDC), and Lawson Health Research Institute.
Each year, tens of millions of medical procedures are conducted around
the world with Tc-99m, an isotope used in radiopharmaceuticals for
imaging disease in the heart, bones, and elsewhere in the body. A
small number of ageing reactors account for most of the global capacity
for isotope production; one of them is the AECL National Research
Universal (NRU) reactor in Chalk River, Ontario. In the past few
years, these reactors have suffered maintenance and repair outages,
threatening the global supply of medical isotopes.
“Today’s milestone demonstrates the positive, tangible results being
achieved by our government’s investments in jobs and science,” said Wai
Young Member of Parliament for Vancouver South, on behalf of Canada’s
Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver. “Our contributions are
supporting jobs and helping advance new technologies for the production
of the key medical isotope, Tc-99m.”
“The BC Cancer Agency is very proud of our team’s time, effort, and use
of specialized research expertise to make it possible to produce large
quantities of Tc-99m with medical-cyclotron technology,” said Dr. Max
Coppes, president of the BC Cancer Agency. “This work is a great
example of the innovation that can be created through multidisciplinary
research and partnerships.”
Richard Eppich, CEO and President of ACSI, noted, “We are proud of the
TRIUMF team and of our equipment; this demonstration validates the
overall approach that Canada has been championing–that modern,
high-power cyclotrons can produce all of the essential medical isotopes
needed in the best hospitals and clinics.”
“The approach taken by our consortium has established the feasibility of
producing appreciable quantities of Tc-99m on Canada’s existing
cyclotron network. These same machines are also producing additional
isotopes used in a growing number of alternative imaging procedures.
The net effect is that Canada will remain on the forefront of
medical-isotope technology for the foreseeable future,” said John
Valliant, Scientific Director and CEO of the CPDC in Hamilton.
In February 2012, the TRIUMF-led team demonstrated that the production
of Tc-99m was possible on existing medical cyclotrons based in BC and
Ontario. After a year of scaling up performance and making engineering
improvements to target fabrication, control, and purification
procedures, the team has achieved its next milestone: the production of
enough Tc-99m in a six-hour overnight shift at the BC Cancer Agency
Vancouver Centre to supply the demands of a metropolitan area (roughly
equivalent to 10 Curies). The next milestones for TRIUMF and its
partners include engineering optimization and regulatory approval.
Michael Kovacs, imaging scientist at Lawson Health Research Institute
said, “This milestone is key to our plans to deploy this technology to
the existing medical cyclotron facilities in Canada, and hundreds more
worldwide. The diversification of the Tc-99m supply chain with robust
and cost-effective cyclotron-based technology will reduce the
dependence on the conventional, reactor-derived supply.”
Commenting on the path forward, TRIUMF’s director Nigel Lockyer said,
“Having cleared this technical hurdle, we are well on our way to
assembling the right team to make a competitive proposal to join the BC
supply chain for medical isotopes such as technetium-99m. I look
forward to working with existing and new partners, including ACSI, in
making this possible.”
The recent breakthroughs have been supported by the Isotope Technology
Acceleration Program (ITAP) of Natural Resources Canada. Initial
research on cyclotron production of Tc-99m was supported by Canada’s
National Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Canadian
Institutes for Health Research through a research grant awarded to the
University of British Columbia to support a team led by Dr. FranÃ§ois
BÃ©nard and Dr. Thomas J. Ruth, from the BC Cancer Agency and TRIUMF,
For more information and media resources, please see http://www.triumf.ca/nrcan-isotopes.
TRIUMF is Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics.
Together with its partner AAPS, Inc., TRIUMF also seeks to
commercialize its technologies for the benefit of all Canadians.
Located on the south campus of the University of British Columbia,
TRIUMF receives operating support from the Government of Canada through
a contribution agreement via National Research Council Canada; the
Government of British Columbia provides capital for new buildings.
TRIUMF is owned and operated as a joint venture by a consortium of the
following Canadian universities: University of Alberta, University of
British Columbia, University of Calgary, Carleton University,
University of Guelph, University of Manitoba, McGill University,
McMaster University, UniversitÃ© de MontrÃ©al, University of Northern
British Columbia, Queen’s University, University of Regina, Saint
Mary’s University, Simon Fraser University, University of Toronto,
University of Victoria, University of Winnipeg, and York University.
For more information, please visit us at http://www.triumf.ca.
In 2003, Ebco Industries–using technology licensed from world-renowned
subatomic-physics research centre, TRIUMF–founded ACSI with a goal to
revolutionize cyclotron design. Since then, ACSI has specialized in
producing advanced cyclotrons that can meet the world’s growing isotope
needs. As part of the Government of Canada’s Isotope Technology
Acceleration Program (ITAP), ACSI is a member of a consortium funded
alongside the TRIUMF team to develop viable alternatives to nuclear
reactor-produced medical isotopes. For more information, please visit
us at http://www.advancedcyclotron.com.
About the BC Cancer Agency
The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services
Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing
the mortality from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those
living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program
for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners
to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early
detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive
care, rehabilitation and palliative care. The BC Cancer Foundation
raises funds to support research and enhancements to patient care at
the BC Cancer Agency.
About the Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization
The Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization (CPDC) discovers,
develops and distributes molecular imaging probes for the early
diagnosis of diseases and to assess the effectiveness of treatments. An
important part of Ontario’s health system, CPDC provides a reliable,
daily supply of imaging probes to hospitals across the province. CPDC
also works collaboratively with industry and academic partners,
offering the research, manufacturing and regulatory expertise needed to
move innovative probe technology and new therapeutic drugs from R&D
labs to clinical use. CPDC, located on the McMaster University Campus,
is a Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research, part of
the Networks of Centres of Excellence Program. It is supported by the
Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, GE Healthcare, Cancer Care
Ontario, and McMaster University.
About Lawson Health Research Institute
Lawson Health Research Institute, located in London, Ontario, is one of
Canada’s largest and most respected hospital-based research institutes.
As the research arm of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s
Health Care, London, and working in partnership with The University of
Western Ontario, Lawson is committed to furthering scientific knowledge
to advance health care around the world. Its state-of-the-art, 6,000
sq. ft. Cyclotron & PET Radiochemistry Facility opened on March 31,
2010 and includes a GE PETtrace 880 cyclotron with proton and deuteron
acceleration capability, class 100 shielded hot cells, and automated
chemistry units for producing F-18 and C-11 radiopharmaceuticals – all
to GMP specifications.
SOURCE TRIUMF (Canada’s National Laboratory of Particle and Nuclear Physics)