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Nuclear medicine

NSERC, CIHR support medical isotope research

OTTAWA – NSERC and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) have announced the results of the Open Grants Alternative Radiopharmaceuticals for Medical Imaging Competition. Seven projects are being funded across Canada by NSERC and CIHR.

The two agencies are jointly providing a total of $5.4 million to seek non-nuclear reactor technology alternatives to Technetium-99m, an isotope commonly used in medical imaging procedures.

The funding competition was launched in June 2009, and 19 applications were received. NSERC and CIHR are collaborating on this initiative because supporting multidisciplinary teams of researchers from the health sciences, physics, chemistry and engineering is viewed as the best way to accelerate research in the quest to find isotopes that can be used to replace Technetium-99m.

The winning projects that will receive funding are:

• University of British Columbia. Cyclotron-based production of technetium radioisotopes.

• Ottawa Heart Institute Research Corporation (Ontario). Rubidium-82 - An Alternative Radiopharmaceutical for Myocardial Imaging (Rb-ARMI).

• University of British Columiba. Replacement of 99mTc-Macroaggregated Albumin with Biodegradable 68Ga-Labelled Microspheres for Lung Perfusion Imaging

• University of British Columiba. Substitution of 99mTc-labelled Red Blood Cells with a 68Ga-Labelled Polyglycerol for Cardiac Blood Pool Imaging.

• Ottawa Heart Institute Research Corporation (Ontario). Iodine-123 labeled Rotenone for Myocardial SPECT Perfusion Imaging.

• McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont. The formulation and clinical testing of I-123 Iodohippuran as an alternative to Tc-99m MAG3 for assessment of renal function in patients with kidney disease.

• London Health Sciences Centre Res. Inc. (Ont.) Seventy-to-Ninety % Reduction of Tc-99m Required for Breast Cancer Lymphoscintigraphy.

Under the leadership of Pamela Zabel, scientists at Lawson will be proceeding with the validation and clinical testing of a new product patented through Lawson’s Business Development Office, now a part of WORLDiscoveries. The product is a modified Technetium-99m formulation optimized for use in the diagnosis and monitoring of the spread of breast cancer through a medical procedure known as sentinel node imaging.

In this procedure, a lymph node biopsy removes lymph node tissue and is examined under a microscope to determine if cancer has spread from its original site. This will allow for appropriate patient management and will potentially eliminate the need to remove of all the lymph nodes in the area reducing the risk and severity of the biopsy procedure. Lymphnode detection is considered clinical priority for use of the Technetium-99m isotope when a shortage occurs. The product typically used for sentinel node imaging and detection is not of optimal size and requires a filtration step that wastes seventy to ninety percent of the radioactivity. The new Technetium-99m formulation that scientists have discovered and patented exhibits optimal size for lymph node detection and does not require filtration.

The funding, along with guidance from Health Canada, will assist in the validation and clinical testing of this product as a safe and efficacious product for Canadian cancer patients. The product may also eventually prove useful as an alternative to other Technetium-99m formulations used in other clinical procedures including liver, spleen and bone marrow imaging.

Pamela Zabel, scientist at Lawson and assistant professor of Medical Imaging at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at The University of Western Ontario and Muriel Brackstone, scientist at Lawson and assistant professor of Oncology at Schulich Medicine & Dentistry will receive $541,339 over two years for their project, “Seventy-to-Ninety Percent Reduction of Tc-99m Required for Breast Cancer Lymphoscintigraphy.” This work will lead to more efficient use of the isotope Technetium-99m during a shortage and will provide less waste for breast cancer and other imaging procedures.

“CIHR is pleased to support researchers Zabel and Brackstone as well as all the other successful applicants,” said Dr. Morag Park, Scientific Director for the Institute of Cancer Research, part of CIHR. “Pursuing discovery in this area will ensure that Canadians can receive timely cancer screening and treatment services into the future.”Other projects that Lawson researchers are successfully involved with include the BC Cancer Agency and TRUIMF, and The University of Ottawa Heart Institute.

Lawson scientist, Mike Kovacs will work with the BC Cancer Agency and TRUIMF, receiving $1.3 million over two years for the project entitled, “Cyclotron-based production of Technetium radioisotopes”. This project will determine if medical isotopes produced from cyclotrons are a viable alternative to isotopes produced by nuclear reactors.

Lawson scientist, Gerry Wisenberg will work with The University of Ottawa Heart Institute, receiving $1.1 million over two years for the project entitled, “Rubidium-82 - An Alternative Radiopharmaceuticalfor Myocardial Imaging (Rb-ARMI)”. This project will develop and test new radioactive tracers for their use in diagnosing heart disease. It will help to fast track production and distribution quickly across Canada.

Lawson Health Research Institute is the Research Institute of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care, London.

Posted Nov.26, 2009