In an age when electronic gadgets become outdated in only a few years, the performance of The Neuro’s cyclotron appears even more remarkable—5000 production days as of last Feb. 6 and counting. The Belgian-made IBA model 18/9 cyclotron makes radioactive isotopes used in the production of radiopharmaceuticals for conducting positron emission tomography (PET) experiments supported by millions of dollars in research grants.
“Five thousand days of cyclotron isotope production marks a milestone for radiochemistry and the BIC,” says Dr. Julien Doyon, director of The Neuro’s McConnell Brain Imaging Centre (BIC). “The future of PET is becoming more important for studying neurological diseases. The PET unit and cyclotron will play an even greater role here.”
The IBA cyclotron’s longevity is considered a record for this model.
Always on the cutting-edge of technology, The Neuro installed Canada’s first medical cyclotron in 1981, a six-tonne “baby” made by Japan Steel Works. It was replaced in 1990 by the eighteen-tonne IBA machine that functions to this day.
“Research includes investigating diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and epilepsy, as well as neuropsychological tests and studies in addiction and the effects of stroke,” says Dr. Jean-Paul Soucy, PET Director at the BIC.
The cyclotron produces isotopes used to create radioactive tracers that are injected through the blood stream into the brain. Tracers are specifically tailored to researchers’ needs.
“We have 33 tracers, the largest menu in the world,” says Cyclotron Manager Dean Joly, who has updated the machine’s technology to keep it as current as possible. “Each day, we produce three or four of these tracers for The Neuro as well as for Quebec medical facilities.”
The Neuro’s research keeps the cyclotron busy.
“Our researchers are doing PET scans more than any other place in the world. In the past four years, our scanning numbers increased by a thousand per cent. Last year, they made close to 750 scans,” notes Dr. Gassan Massarweh, the BIC’s Director, Cyclotron and Radiochemistry.
No doubt, the IBA cyclotron is a workhorse that is expected to continue producing for years to come. Demand for its radioactive isotopes, however, is outstripping supply. Demand could further increase if the BIC goes ahead with plans to obtain a new PET scanner. At that point, to stay leader in the field, The Neuro must get a younger brother to help old IBA 18/9.
The Cyclotron and Radiochemistry facility
Christopher Thompson, pioneer of PET
Event on March 18, 2019:
First PET scanner in Canada
March 4, 2019