Medicine, Materials, Energy and Environment

Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences

USask's tool for innovative research, training and medical isotope production

Science Minister Kirsty Duncan (centre) and USask researchers Eric Price and Kate Dadachova discuss potential of “smart” drugs to target both cancer and infectious disease during tour of the university’s cyclotron facility.

Science Minister Kirsty Duncan (centre) and USask researchers Dr. Eric Price (PhD) and Dr. Kate Dadachova (PhD) discuss potential of “smart” drugs to target both cancer and infectious disease during a tour of the university’s cyclotron facility.

The Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences (SCCS), located at the University of Saskatchewan, is a world-class scientific facility for innovation in nuclear imaging and treatment in living specimens: plants, animals and humans.  It is owned by USask and operated by the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation Inc. (Fedoruk Centre).

Sylvia Fedoruk, a graduate student in physics, moves the rotating head of the Cobalt-60 unit into position with the aid of a push-button control.
Sylvia Fedoruk, a graduate student in physics, moves the rotating head of the Cobalt-60 unit into position with the aid of a push-button control.

With funding from the Government of Saskatchewan and Western Economic Diversification Canada, the facility is integral to research, training and innovation in nuclear medicine—including radiochemistry, physics and development of new radiopharmaceuticals for medical imaging. 

The investment enables the SCCS to be a key part of a growing nuclear imaging cluster on campus that includes the Canadian Light Source. 

The SCCS builds upon the university's pioneering research in nuclear medicine and advances research in the expanding fields of molecular imaging, nuclear medicine and other areas of science that make use of radioisotopes.

Impact:

  • Since the SCCS was established in 2016, it has provided medical isotopes for nuclear imaging scans of more than 5,000 patients in Saskatchewan (at Royal University Hospital), as well as in Alberta and Manitoba to diagnose and treat cancer.
  • The SCCS manufactures the radio-pharmaceutical “FDG”, enabling doctors to perform nuclear imaging that reveals the size and location of cancer tumours. This means doctors can plan treatments with confidence, and determine progress with certainty.
  • The SCCS provides companies with access to specialized facilities and expertise to accelerate new nuclear medical technologies towards the marketplace.

The Innovation Wing Project:

Left to right, USask VP Research Karen Chad, Canada’s Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness minister Ralph Goodale, Fedoruk Centre executive director John Root, and Post-doctoral fellow Dr. Elaheh Khozeimeh Sarbisheh (PhD)

Left to right, USask VP Research Karen Chad, Canada’s Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness minister Ralph Goodale, Fedoruk Centre executive director John Root, and post-doctoral fellow Dr. Elaheh Khozeimeh Sarbisheh (PhD)

With combined funding of $3.6 M from Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Fedoruk Centre, the “Innovation Wing” at the SCCS will be renovated and equipped in 2019 to enable innovative imaging research that will improve human, animal and plant health.   

  • The renovated wing will bridge the gap between developing nuclear imaging drugs and proving their effectiveness in living specimens to advance agriculture, veterinary medicine and human medicine.
  • The new wing will enable more than 20 young researchers to test better ways of diagnosing cancer, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and heart disease, to invent new detectors and targeted therapies, and to apply nuclear imaging to advance agricultural sciences.

Minister for Advanced Education Tina Beaudry-Mellor (left) discusses the steps taken to create novel nuclear imaging agents with USask chemistry professor Dr. Chris Phenix (PhD).

Fedoruk Centre Research Coordinator, Dr. Jacquie Cawthray (left) describes a micro-PET Scanner to Saskatchewan Minister for Advanced Education Tina Beaudry-Mellor.

SCCS Research News

Fedoruk Centre for Nuclear Innovation Chair in Radiopharmacy

Kate Dadachova joined USask as a professor of pharmacy in the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition and as the Fedoruk Centre for Nuclear Innovation Chair in Radiopharmacy Nov. 2016.(Read More...)

Working on “smart” cancer drugs

Eric Price, new USask Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Radiochemistry, is leading work on developing a new generation of medical imaging technology and “smart” drugs for cancer treatment. (Read More...)

Researchers identifying new markers for Parkinson’s disease

An estimated 55,000 Canadians over age 18 have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, characterized by symptoms such as tremors, muscle rigidity and unstable balance.(Read More...)


The Cyclotron 

What is a Cyclotron?

A cyclotron is a type of compact particle accelerator which produces radioactive isotopes that can be used for imaging procedures. Stable, non-radioactive isotopes are put into the cyclotron which accelerates charged particles (protons) to high energy in a magnetic field. When the stable isotopes react with the particle beam, a nuclear reaction occurs between the protons and the target atoms, creating radioactive isotopes for nuclear medicine and other purposes.

Radioisotopes used in medicine do not stay radioactive for very long. For this reason, the laboratory must be close to both the cyclotron that produces the isotopes and the end user – in this case, Royal University Hospital’s nuclear medicine department.

What is it used for?

In addition to producing the imaging isotopes used for the PET-CT scanner at the RUH, the laboratory undertakes animal and human health imaging and research and crop/plant imaging and research.

The facility is also the site for research into development of new compounds – called radiopharmaceuticals – that can lead to improved detection, diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cancers, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis. By tagging specific biomolecules with radioisotopes, scientists can track the processes that can lead to diseases in specific organs, based on how the ‘tagged’ molecules are absorbed.

Other areas of research include physics related to the production of new radioisotopes using the cyclotron and the design of more sensitive radiation detectors.

Students, faculty and researchers from a wide array of disciplines and industry partners research solutions to complex problems, and health professionals are trained in the most advanced imaging and treatment protocols.

The Radioisotope Laboratory

Assistant professor Eric Price (right) and post-doctoral fellow Elaheh Khozeimeh Sarbisheh

Left to right, assistant professor Dr. Eric Price (PhD) and post-doctoral fellow Dr. Elaheh Khozeimeh Sarbisheh (PhD).

The radioisotope laboratory is specially designed to enable researchers to work safely with radioactive materials, separating them from the cyclotron targets and preparing them for use in radiopharmaceuticals or experiments.

Much of the work is done using remote systems inside shielded chambers called ‘hot cells.’ As many of the radioisotopes are intended for use in medical imaging or clinical research, the laboratory also meets stringent standards for the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, known as Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP).

Location

The facility is located on the University of Saskatchewan campus between the Canadian Light Source and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. The building has been extensively refurbished, with an extension added to accommodate the cyclotron and laboratory where radioisotopes are extracted. This location is ideal due to its proximity to the Royal University Hospital, permitting rapid shipment of medical isotopes to the hospital before they decay.

Some frequently asked questions

Are there any risks from working or living near the facility?

Designed and operated to meet or exceed the highest federal safety standards, the facility is regulated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Health Canada, and conforms to the University of Saskatchewan's health and safety policies. Access to the cyclotron and the associated lab is tightly controlled through a variety of safeguards. Specialized air and waste handling systems guard against accidental releases of radioisotopes outside the facility. Lab work with radioisotopes take place in sealed and shielded hot cells designed to contain spills.  Isotopes produced in the facility do not last very long and decay to negligible amounts in a matter of hours.

How is a cyclotron different from a synchrotron?

Both are particle accelerators. A cyclotron uses a constant magnetic field and a constant frequency electric field, whereas a synchrotron uses varying electric and magnetic fields and can accelerate particles to much higher energies.  A cyclotron can fit in a room.  A synchrotron is often the size of a football field.

A cyclotron is a particle accelerator in which charged particles (protons) accelerate in a spiral outwards from the machine’s centre, accelerated by kicks of electric voltage and steered along their path by a magnetic field. Once the high-speed, high-energy protons get to the edge of the cyclotron chamber, the particles are directed down beamlines where they are used in experiments or to make radioisotopes for nuclear medicine and other purposes.

A synchrotron such as the Canadian Light Source accelerates charged particles (electrons) in a circle using magnetic fields and radiowaves. Radiation (synchrotron light) given off by the electrons is used in experiments to study the structure of matter.

Do you have a question? Submit it here.

Facts and Figures

Cyclotron

The Advanced Cyclotron Systems  TR 24 cyclotron 

The Cyclotron A particle accelerator that produces radioisotopes by bombarding target materials with high-energy protons.
Cyclotron type Advanced Cyclotron Systems Inc. TR-24 cyclotron; 24 MeV, 200-500 microamps
Mass when fully assembled 25 tonnes
Cyclotron magnet dimensions 15 cubic metres (3x2.3x2.2 m)
Beamline One Y-shaped beamline, accommodating two target end stations for producing radioisotopes
Isotopes produced
  • Fluoride-18 (18F) for PET-CT scanning;
  • Carbon-11 (11C) and nitrogen-13 (13N) for research uses
The Cyclotron Vault
The vault is specially designed to ensure that no radiation produced by the cyclotron can exit into the rest of the facility or the environment
  • Roof and wall thickness: 2.5 m
  • Floor slab thickness: 1 m
  • Mass of roof slab: 1.4 million kg
  • Number of concrete trucks needed to pour roof: 82, delivering 505 cubic metres of special mix concrete