February 22, 2012 -- A team of Canadian researchers has successfully produced the radioisotope technetium-99m (Tc-99m) on cyclotrons already available in Ontario and British Columbia.
The process, achieved on a cyclotron from GE Healthcare, would allow hospitals and clinics with existing cyclotrons to make the isotope that traditionally has only been available from nuclear reactors.
The core of the technology includes preparing solid targets of molybdenum-100 and placing them in an automated system for irradiation with the cyclotron. The team developed these tools along with chemistry that isolates and purifies the Tc-99m.
The researchers come from TRIUMF, BC Cancer Agency, Lawson Health Research Institute, and the Centre for Probe Development and Commercialization. They made the announcement on February 20 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver.
Paul Schaffer, head of TRIUMF's nuclear medicine division, said that the ability to make medical isotopes in hospitals, rather than nuclear reactors, is a "major milestone for diagnostic imaging for patients in Canada and around the world."
The advance is particularly important for nuclear medicine procedures that use Tc-99m to image disease in the heart, bones, and throughout the body.