Technetium 99m produced in cyclotron
SHERBROOKE, Que. – Researchers at
the CHUS’s Centre de recherche clinique Étienne-Le Bel (CRCELB) and the
Université de Sherbrooke, in collaboration with Advanced Cyclotron
Systems Inc. in Vancouver, have demonstrated that technetium 99m can be
produced using a cyclotron.
Diagnostic testing indicates that cyclotron-produced technetium 99m is
fully equivalent to that obtained from nuclear reactors, such as the
Chalk River facility.
The team at the Molecular Imaging Center of Sherbrooke (CIMS), under the
direction of Drs. Brigitte Guérin and Johan van Lier, has demonstrated
that three of the technetium 99m radiopharmaceuticals most commonly used
in nuclear medicine for diagnostic purposes yield exactly the same
results, whether produced in a cyclotron or a nuclear reactor.
Dr. van Lier stated that “the next step is to optimize production to
yield technetium 99m in quantities sufficient to meet the daily demand
of local hospitals. Moreover, we intend to acquire a second high-energy
cyclotron, which would enable us to secure the supply of medical
isotopes and provide for a backup supply of technetium 99m for a large
part of the province of Quebec.”
The CHUS currently uses an average of 10 000 millicuries of technetium
per week. The report of the expert review panel appointed by Natural
Resources Canada recommended supporting research and development
programs for the direct production of technetium 99m with cyclotrons.
According to the experts, “the cyclotron option would be an important
means by which to ensure security of supply over the long term because
it would build in all of the elements needed for security - capacity,
redundancy, and diversity.”
Dr. Guérin observed that “we have the expertise and knowledge to pursue
research and development into cyclotron-based production of technetium
99m. A minimum investment, compared to the costs associated with nuclear
reactors, would enable us to immediately play a major role in
implementing this novel approach.”
Repeated shutdowns of the aging nuclear reactors in Chalk River (Canada)
and Petten (Netherlands) have caused the current worldwide shortage of
technetium 99m. The fact that these two facilities produce 70% of the
world’s supply underscores the urgency of diversifying sources of
medical isotopes. “A National Cyclotron Network would meet all of
Canada’s medical isotopes needs, while ensuring supply-chain redundancy
and flexibility” says Richard Eppich, CEO of Advanced Cyclotron Systems
As Dr. van Lier firmly stated, “the cyclotron is a proven, safe
technology that offers many tangible advantages. Cyclotron production of
radioisotopes does not require highly enriched weapons grade uranium,
used in today’s nuclear reactors, and does not generate nuclear waste.
Indeed, it constitutes a solution that is sustainable and clearly more
Our Expertise in Medical Imaging
The Sherbrooke Molecular Imaging Center (cims.med.usherbrooke.ca),
integrated into the CRCELB, was inaugurated in 1998. The centre houses a
medical-imaging platform with cutting edge technology. Our TR-19
cyclotron produces medical isotopes for PET imaging on a daily basis.
From the outset, the CIMS embarked on an ambitious research and
development program investigating all aspects of PET imaging, from
radioisotope production to using new radiopharmaceuticals for human
clinical diagnostics, including radiochemical synthesis and preclinical
animal model validation.
Since 2003, the CIMS has been supplying many hospitals in Quebec and
Eastern Canada with radiotracers for PET imaging. In anticipation of a
growing demand, the CHUS began planning back in 2005 to acquire a second
cyclotron to secure the supply of medical isotopes. This second
high-energy cyclotron could be brought on-stream in the short term and
provide a backup supply of technetium 99m for a large part of the
province of Quebec. In 2008, the CIMS of the CHUS was granted an
Establishment Licence to produce radiopharmaceuticals for medical
applications by Health Canada.
Cyclotron: A cyclotron is a particle accelerator with a circular
acceleration track. Cyclotrons play an essential role in producing
medical isotopes and provide for the production of a wide variety of isotopes,
including those already used for positron emission tomography (PET).
Many of these isotopes are already being used as alternatives to
technetium 99m when shortages occur. This technology allows for
adjusting production in response to market demand, either upwards or
downwards, and, in all probability, at a lower real cost than with a
About the Centre de recherche clinique Étienne-Le Bel at the CHUS
The Centre de recherche clinique Étienne-Le Bel of the Centre
hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke (CHUS) is at the forefront of
current health issues. The center stands out for its integrated
approach, bringing together fundamental, clinical, epidemiological, and
evaluative research. More than 175 basic-science researchers and
clinicians have been pooling their knowledge and expertise for more than
28 years targeting the shared objective of developing new knowledge to
maintain health and prevent disease.
About the Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke (CHUS)
The Centre hospitalier universitaire de Sherbrooke has two constituent
institutions: the CHUS - Fleurimont Hospital and the CHUS - Hôtel-Dieu.
Its mission is fourfold: care, teaching, research, and assessment of
health-care technologies and modes of intervention. The fourth largest
hospital center in Quebec, the CHUS plays a triple role of local,
regional, and provincial hospital. The CHUS stands out for its many
cutting-edge specialties such as gamma-knife radiosurgery, positron
emission tomography (PET), interventional angiography, and neuro-oncology.
The CHUS hospital community comprises nearly 9000 individuals
(employees, physicians, researchers, students, trainees, and volunteers)
with a single objective: serving life.
Posted Jan. 28, 2010