Triumf orders new cyclotron

09 June 2014

Triumf, Canada's national laboratory for particle physics, has placed an order for a TR24 cyclotron to further its work on alternative sources of supply of medical isotopes following the announcement of federal funding.

Triumf head Paul Shaffer shows Minister Michelle Rempel around Triumf's facilities (Image: Government of Canada)

Minister for western economic diversification Michelle Rempel announced the CAD 5.5 million ($5 million) funding package to support the procurement of the new cyclotron and establish a new body, the Institute for Accelerator-based Medical Isotopes (IAMI), to develop new isotope products, processes and services.

Triumf is located at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver but is owned and operated by a consortium of Canadian universities, with support from the Canadian government. The laboratory has long been involved in Canadian initiatives to investigate methods to develop new supply sources for medical isotopes, particularly technetium-99m (Tc-99m).

Tc-99m is the world's most widely used medical isotope, used in about 80% of nuclear medicine diagnostic procedures. The isotope has a short half-life and is therefore generated at the point of treatment from the slightly longer-lived molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) which is itself produced in research reactors. Canada already produces around 40% of the world's supply of Mo-99 in the NRU reactor at Chalk River, but the unit is scheduled to cease isotope production in 2016 after nearly 60 years of service.

With the impending closure of the NRU and issues at other ageing research reactors affecting the Mo-99 supply chain in recent years, Canada and other countries have been stepping up efforts to secure alternative supplies of medical isotopes. One such method involves producing Tc-99m directly in a cyclotron by bombarding a molybdenum-100 (Mo-100) target with a proton beam.

Triumf's head of nuclear medicine Paul Schaffer described the governmental investment as a "curcial step on the road to meeting Canada's isotope needs" after NRU ceases production. "We are a huge step closer to being ready to enter the supply chain," he said.

TR24 on order

Following the announcement of the funding, Canadian company Advanced Cyclotron Systems Inc (ACSI) signed an agreement to supply a TR24 cyclotron to Triumf. The TR24 will be the fourth cyclotron to be installed by ACSI on Triumf's campus in a relationship dating back over 30 years.

According to ACSI, the TR24's beam capabilities makes it ideal for the production of isotopes for use in both the SPECT (Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography) technology widely in use in hospitals and also the isotopes used in emerging PET (Positron Emission Tomography) technology.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News