News and Events
Saskatchewan’s cyclotron now supplying radioisotopes to Royal University Hospital
SASKATOON – Stakeholders from government, healthcare and academia today marked the start of supply of radioisotopes from the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences for patient PET-CT scans at Royal University Hospital. The achievement marks the end of the cyclotron’s three-year capital project and the beginning of its operational life as a supplier of radioisotopes for Saskatchewan patients.
The Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences started supplying Royal University Hospital on June 6, 2016. Prior to that, the hospital received the radioisotope from Hamilton, Ontario. More Saskatchewan patients will now be able to receive PET-CT scans with a supply that comes from across the University of Saskatchewan campus rather than from across the country – meaning an earlier start to clinic hours and fewer missed patient appointments due to transport delays or cancellations.
Radioisotopes produced by the cyclotron are also being used in research, from exploring new cancer treatments and understanding how Parkinson’s disease develops, to investigating how plants store nutrients and respond to environmental stresses to develop new crops.
Construction of the $25-million facility began in August 2013 and was completed in November 2014. It was funded by the Government of Saskatchewan, Western Economic Diversification Canada and the Fedoruk Centre. Owned by the University of Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences is operated by the Fedoruk Centre.
Government of Canada
“The Government of Canada is committed to supporting innovation in all fields and improving access to health care for Canadians. We are inspired by the work of the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences in pursuing these goals, and proud to assist in these endeavours.”
- The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development
and Minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada
Government of Saskatchewan
“Our government’s Growth Plan includes an innovation agenda to ensure our province continues to grow and thrive, to diversify and create jobs for the future. In 2011, we committed $30 M to the Sylvia Fedoruk Centre for Nuclear Innovation and $13 M to building the cyclotron, the outcome of that investment we are recognizing today. Not only are new, technical jobs being created, we will now be providing medical isotopes right here in Saskatchewan that will improve health care for many Saskatchewan patients. In addition, the isotopes will also assist our world leading agricultural researchers in areas like plant nutrition and animal science. This is exactly the kind of investment needed to continue to move our province and our economy forward.”
- The Honourable Brad Wall
Premier of Saskatchewan
University of Saskatchewan
“The Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan is the foundation of a growing community of researchers in the province who will use the radioisotopes produced by the cyclotron to conduct ground-breaking research in human, animal and plant health.”
- Karen Chad, Vice-President Research
University of Saskatchewan
“The completion of the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences is a significant achievement for the Fedoruk Centre, the University of Saskatchewan and the province’s nuclear imaging and nuclear medicine communities. Now with a fully operational cyclotron, radioisotopes produced in the province are available for Saskatchewan patients and for Saskatchewan researchers. This achievement was made possible by the tireless efforts of the cyclotron team and the contributions of partners from across the country.”
- Neil Alexander, Executive Director,
Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation
Radioisotopes are unstable atoms that become stable by emitting radiation through the process of radioactive decay. There are many different radioisotopes: the radioisotope that most Canadians aware of is the medical isotope molybdenum-99, produced by the NRU nuclear reactor at Chalk River. Medical isotopes are radioisotopes used in nuclear medicine procedures.
Medical isotope shortage: A shortage of molybdenum-99 due to the shutdown of the NRU in 2009, ageing research reactors around the world, and pressure from the U.S. government to cease production of medical radioisotopes using highly-enriched uranium led to research efforts around the world to come up with other ways to produce molybdenum-99 or its product technetium-99m, which is used in heart and bone scans. This included the Medical Isotope Project at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) in Saskatoon. The research and development work is now being undertaken by Canadian Isotope Innovations, a spin-off of the CLS.
Cyclotron-produced medical isotopes and radiopharmaceuticals: The Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences and other cyclotrons commonly produce the radioisotope fluorine-18, the active ingredient in the imaging agent used in PET-CT scans. When the imaging agent (called a radiopharmaceutical) is injected into a patient it is absorbed by the patient’s cells – the more active the cells, the more imaging agent is absorbed.
As the radioisotope decays the release of radiation is detected by the PET-CT scanner. This is then combined with a three-dimensional X-ray to provide physicians with a picture of where the most active cells in a patient’s body, such as cancer cells, are located. The information is vital to detecting and tracking cancers.
How a cyclotron works: Cyclotrons produce radioisotopes by bombarding a target material with a beam of subatomic particles (protons). Nuclear reactions between the beam and the atoms within the target convert them into radioisotopes. The resulting radioisotope is separated and chemically tagged to an imaging agent for clinical and research use.
Additional information about the Saskatchewan Centre for Cyclotron Sciences, including a short video is available here. Videos of the cyclotron and the radiopharmaceutical lab are on the Fedoruk Centre’s YouTube channel.