Cana­di­ans con­tinue to in­no­vate med­i­cal iso­tope pro­duc­tion and de­liv­ery

Toronto Star - - NUCLEAR POWER -

Risk of a loom­ing global shortage of med­i­cal iso­topes – a foun­da­tion of nu­clear medicine and a global Cana­dian busi­ness in­ter­est – is be­ing averted thanks to the on­go­ing ef­forts of an in­no­va­tive sci­en­tific con­sor­tium led by Canada’s TRIUMF re­search fa­cil­ity. Lo­cated on the cam­pus of the Uni­ver­sity of Bri­tish Columbia, TRIUMF is widely rec­og­nized among the world’s lead­ing sub­atomic physics lab­o­ra­to­ries. Ac­cord­ing to Health Canada, med­i­cal iso­topes are safe radioactiv­e sub­stances that, when in­jected into a pa­tient, es­sen­tially light up a tar­get or­gan and al­low clin­i­cians us­ing spe­cial­ized cam­eras to non-in­va­sively peer in­side a pa­tient’s body – in real-time and to a molec­u­lar level. Threats of a po­ten­tial shortage of Tech­netium-99m ( Tc-99m) – used in over 80 per cent of nu­clear medicine imag­ing pro­ce­dures to di­ag­noses se­ri­ous ill­nesses such as cancer, Parkin­son’s and heart dis­ease – how­ever, had physi­cians, gov­ern­ments and pa­tients world­wide on alert. The is­sue re­volves around the age and re­lated re­li­a­bil­ity of nu­clear re­ac­tors used to pro­duce Tc-99m. In par­tic­u­lar, Canada’s Chalk River re­ac­tor, which pro­duces some 40 per cent of the global sup­ply of Tc-99m, is slated to shut down in 2018. Be­yond the risk to hu­man health, Canada also faced a po­ten­tial threat to its dom­i­nance in a global sup­ply of med­i­cal iso­topes, a mar­ket val­ued at ap­prox­i­mately $4 bil­lion that is ex­pected to grow be­tween one per cent and four per cent an­nu­ally over the com­ing decade.


In 2009, TRIUMF and its re­search part­ners – the BC Cancer Agency, the Cen­tre for Probe De­vel­op­ment and Com­mer­cial­iza­tion, the Law­son Health Re­search In­sti­tute and UBC – be­gan to in­ves­ti­gate new ways to pro­duce iso­topes. By 2012, the group suc­cess­fully man­u­fac­tured Tc-99m on a GE cy­clotron, a com­mer­cial tech­nol­ogy sim­i­lar to ma­chines avail­able in many Cana­dian hos­pi­tals. More re­cently, the group’s ad­vances en­abled med­i­cal iso­tope pro­duc­tion us­ing a cy­clotron in quan­ti­ties suf­fi­cient to meet the prov­ince of B.C.’s daily needs. In Septem­ber 2016, the re­search part­ners took their ef­forts one step fur­ther by cre­at­ing ARTMS Prod­ucts Inc. This new com­mer­cial en­tity com­bines the group’s know-how and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty, and will glob­ally mar­ket tech­nol­ogy to pro­duce Tc-99m iso­topes us­ing cy­clotrons. Ac­cord­ing to TRIUMF, ARTMS’s so­lu­tion “of­fers the po­ten­tial to rev­o­lu­tion­ize med­i­cal iso­tope pro­duc­tion: in­stead of pro­duc­ing Tc-99m in a small num­ber of large, global fa­cil­i­ties, it can be pro­duced via lo­cal hos­pi­tals, clin­ics and ra­dio­phar­ma­cies that al­ready have med­i­cal imag­ing in­fra­struc­ture in place.”


TRU­IMF houses state-of-the-art com­mer­cial cy­clotrons, like the TR30 cy­clotron which are in­tended for ra­dioiso­tope pro­duc­tion.

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