[News-releases] BC Cancer Agency to lead $1.3-million program evaluating medical-isotope alternatives

Tim Meyer tmeyer at triumf.ca
Mon Nov 9 10:33:21 PST 2009


BC Cancer Agency to lead $1.3-million program evaluating medical-isotope
alternatives (Partnership will use grant to find short-term medical isotope

(Vancouver, BC) - Together with TRIUMF and other partners, the BC Cancer
Agency (BCCA) has received a $1.3-million grant from the Canadian Institutes
of Health Research (CIHR) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research
Council of Canada (NSERC) to develop an alternative source of medical
isotopes. The BC grant is the largest out of seven nationally funded

In the face of a worldwide supply shortage of the key medical isotope
Technetium-99m (Tc-99m), the grant will enable BCCA, TRIUMF and a team of
researchers from Edmonton, Sherbrooke, and London, Ontario to collaborate on
a two-year research project to determine if medical isotopes produced from
cyclotrons can be a viable alternative to isotopes produced using nuclear
reactors. The BC led team will develop methods to produce technetium using
cyclotrons instead of nuclear reactors.  

The grant was announced today by Health Canada as part of a $5.4-million
research program called Alternative Radiopharmaceuticals for Medical
Imaging. The project will be led by co-principal investigators Dr. Francois
Bénard, Scientific Director of the Centre of Excellence for Functional
Cancer Imaging at the BC Cancer Agency, and Dr. Thomas J. Ruth, Senior
Research Scientist at TRIUMF and Senior Scientist at the BC Cancer Agency.
Dr. Bénard holds the BC Leadership Chair in Functional Cancer Imaging and is
a professor of radiology at the University of British Columbia. 

"Finding alternatives to reactor produced medical isotopes is vital to
staying ahead of the supply curve and meeting the health needs of patients,"
said Dr. Bénard. "Producing technetium radioisotopes from cyclotrons could
be a safe, reliable and cost-effective alternative to using material
produced in nuclear reactors." 

With an estimated 1.5 million nuclear medicine procedures performed annually
in Canada and over 80 per cent of all nuclear medicine investigations
involving technetium radiopharmaceuticals, the funding announcement comes at
a time when the demand for medical isotope alternatives has never been
greater. Recent isotope shortages have made the need for researching
alternative manufacturing processes essential. It is expected that this
research will lead to clinical studies within two years to validate new
production methods.

"We're thrilled to be working with the leading cancer agency in Canada and
some of the best minds in Canada on this research program," said Dr. Nigel
Lockyer, TRIUMF Director. "We each bring something unique to the table.
Together, we will find solutions to this problem that will work for
Canadians and even the world. "

Conventional medical cyclotron machines are already being used to produce
radioisotopes for many diagnostic procedures. Construction of a cyclotron
lab is underway at the BC Cancer Agency, an initiative made possible through
funding provided by the British Columbia Ministry of Health Services and the
BC Cancer Foundation. 

The BC Cancer Foundation and the government of British Columbia each
contributed $2.25 million to establish a permanent endowment fund to support
the B.C. Leadership Chair in Functional Cancer Imaging, held by Dr. Bénard.


The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority,
is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality
from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer.
It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British
Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology
services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment,
research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care.
The BC Cancer Foundation raises funds to support research and enhancements
to patient care at the BC Cancer Agency. 

TRIUMF is Canada's National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics.
Located on the south campus of the University of British Columbia, TRIUMF is
owned and operated as a joint venture by a consortium of the following
Canadian universities, via a contribution through the National Research
Council Canada: University of Alberta, University of British Columbia,
University of Calgary, Carleton University, University of Guelph, University
of Manitoba, McMaster University, Université de Montréal, Queen's
University, University of Regina, Simon Fraser University, Saint Mary's
University, University of Toronto, University of Victoria, York University.

UBC is consistently ranked among the world's 40 best universities, one of
only two Canadian universities in this category. It is ranked within the top
10 North American universities, and first among Canadian universities, in
terms of the number of U.S. life sciences patents and the quality of
activity generated from those patents, including spin-off company creation.



BC Cancer Agency
Papinder Rehncy
Pager: 604.918.1043
e-mail: prehncy at bccancer.bc.ca

Timothy I. Meyer, Ph.D.
Tel: 604-222-7674
E-mail: tmeyer at triumf.ca

Randy Schmidt
e-mail: randys at exchange.ubc.ca


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