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Diagnostic imaging

GE Healthcare wins contracts for cyclotrons in Canada

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – GE Healthcare Canada has won orders to build and equip two cyclotrons, in Halifax and London, Ont. The cyclotrons are being constructed to provide radioactive tracers for use in local Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanners, which are widely considered to be the imaging ‘gold standard’ for identifying cancers in the body and determining whether tumours are advancing or shrinking during therapy.

PET scanners are also proving useful in the identification of various cardiovascular and neurological disorders.

In Halifax and London, GE Healthcare is leading the complete implementation of the cyclotron and chemistry systems, including FASTlab technology, an automated synthesis system for streamlining the production of radiotracers such as FDG. The two sites will be operational in 2009.

Peter Robertson, General Manager of GE Healthcare Canada, based in Mississauga, Ont., said the combined cyclotrons, FASTlab systems and related equipment at the sites each represent investments of between $5 million to $10 million.

“We’re providing them with an end-to-end offering, including training on how to use the systems,” said Robertson.

Robertson noted that the Canadian market is very active with an additional five to eight active cyclotron projects across the country. The surging business in cyclotrons has been fuelled by the uptake of PET scanners, and funding provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation for research purposes and trials.

GE Healthcare Canada is also supplying its FASTlab advanced radiotracer chemistry system to a private-sector PET imaging centre in Vancouver. The centre is importing its own stock of radioactive isotopes from nearby Seattle; it will then use the GE FASTlab system for further processing, transforming them into human radiotracers. The FASTlab system in Vancouver will be up and running in the spring of 2008.

“One of the biggest benefits of FASTlab is that you don’t need a chemist on site to produce radiotracers,” said Hadi Moufarrej, Global General Manager, Molecular Imaging, for GE Healthcare Technologies. The FASTlab system automates much of the process of producing the radiotracers needed for PET scanning.

Robertson said that PET scanning for clinical purposes is expected to quickly grow at sites across the Canada, including Ontario, which currently doesn’t provide re-imbursement to Nuclear Medicine Physicians for PET exams.

But with PET proving itself internationally as a powerful tool for the early detection of cancer and the proper staging of tumours, observers feel it’s only a matter of time before Ontario starts funding the use of the scanners at imaging centres.

While Canada has lagged behind other industrialized nations in terms of the number of PET scanners deployed, Canada already has internationally recognized expertise in this field. Sites at McMaster University, in Hamilton, Ont., the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, as well as centres in Vancouver, Ottawa and Sherbrooke, Que., have been long-time leaders in PET technology.