Cyclotron and radiopharmacy – Thunder Bay Bound!

This is an image of a cyclotron from the Roberts Proton Therapy Center
This is an image of a cyclotron from the Roberts Proton Therapy Center

THUNDER BAY – “Today’s Federal Budget includes a commitment to $4 million in funding to purchase a cyclotron and radiopharmacy, and to build the space to house the cyclotron in Thunder Bay. This brings the total funding envelope to $9.4 million dollars for the cyclotron project that will be housed at the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute (TBRRI) and Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC). “This is great news. The announcement of the cyclotron funding sets us apart. And, because there are so few cyclotrons in the world it positions us well for the future. Our patients will benefit greatly, our clinical, academic and research programs will thrive, as well. We are a healthcare leader with a renewed vision,” says Angèle Brunelle, Chair of the Board, Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.

“This is an incredible day in the history of TBRRI and TBRHSC. This cyclotron will produce a precious commodity of medical isotopes for medical imaging and medical research in our region. We thank Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Federal Government for reaffirming the commitment, and we greatly thank the prior commitments by the Provincial Government and the City of Thunder Bay,” says Michael Power, CEO of TBRRI and Vice President of Regional Cancer and Diagnostic Services at TBRHSC. In 2010, the City of Thunder Bay has promised $1.5 million and the Province of Ontario has pledged approximately $4 million. Today the Federal Government is now matching that funding with $4 million.

“This is a remarkable commitment, and one that reaffirms our membership with the National Cyclotron Network. Having a cyclotron in the Northwest will allow us to do our part in helping guard against medical isotope shortages in the future,” says Keith Jobbitt, Chair of the Board, Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute.

In the past few years, the regional supply of isotopes flown into TBRHSC and Regional Cancer Care Northwest has been limited, based on the highest-priority patient need. Following the Nuclear Reactor shut downs in Europe in March 2010, and the lengthy shut down for maintenance of Canada’s Chalk River facility in May 2009, isotopes – specifically the Technetium-99m (Tc-99m) isotope – have been in short supply across the country. Patients in Northwestern Ontario were safeguarded from the shortage of Tc-99m because TBRHSC was able to move patients to Flourine-18 (F-18), an isotope produced by a cyclotron.

“A Cyclotron based in Thunder Bay can, for the most part, alleviate the need for isotopes that are produced by nuclear reactors. With the new cyclotron, we will be able to substantially mitigate risk to our supply,” says Dr. David Kisselgoff, Chief Radiologist, TBRHSC, and Clinician Scientist, TBRRI.

Options are being explored to decide upon the exact location of where the cyclotron will be housed, including onsite at the TBRHSC campus or at the ICR Discoveries campus on Munro Street. As a result of this investment, new and ongoing health services and health-related jobs are expected to be brought to the Northwest region.

What is a Cyclotron: Cyclotrons are particle accelerators that produce medical radioisotopes such as Technitium-99 or Flourine-18 used in different medical procedures to detect cancer, heart disease, or kidney malfunction, among others. Radioisotopes are used for Positron Emission Tomography (or PET), an imaging technology that allows the examination of biochemical processes in the brain, heart, liver, tumors and muscle tissue. In addition, the Cyclotron is used by researchers who explore and develop new applications for the diagnosis and treatment of disease including cancer, Alzheimers, and congestive heart failure.

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