Cyclotron component delivered

As a crane lowered the multi-tonne magnetic heart of Saskatchewan’s first cyclotron facility into its concrete vault on April 22, medical imaging and nuclear medicine researchers at the U of S are gearing up for the opportunities it will offer.

"This important milestone represents another key step along the path to provincial self-sufficiency for provision of radiopharmaceuticals for PET-CT and molecular imaging," said Dr. Paul Babyn, head of the Department of Medical Imaging for the U of S and Saskatoon Health Region.

Saskatchewan's first PET-CT scanner was installed at Royal University Hospital (RUH) last year, offering a valuable tool to diagnose and treat cancer, heart disease and certain brain disorders. Babyn explained that having the $25-million cyclotron facility on campus will overcome one of the disadvantages of PET-CT: the radioisotopes it needs are short lived and must be used quickly after they are manufactured. All of the more than 1,000 scans done every year at RUH are reliant on daily shipments of radioisotopes from Ontario.

Cyclotrons use magnets to accelerate protons, a type of subatomic particle, to extremely high speed and bombards target materials with them. This creates radioisotopes.

"The cyclotron will allow us to produce (radioisotopes) right here in the province, hopefully more cost effectively and with more assured access," Babyn said. "It will also allow us to build stronger molecular imaging research programs for our patients and ensure that the patients of Saskatchewan have appropriate access to this rapidly evolving technology."

The Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation at the U of S will operate the cyclotron and associated lab facility both to produce isotopes for clinical use as well as conduct research and training.

John Root, interim director of the Fedoruk centre explained that the state-of-the-art cyclo-tron will "place Saskatchewan in the top tier of nuclear medicine research."

Construction on the cyclotron facility next to the Canadian Light Source began in June 2013 and is expected to be complete by this fall. Licensing and commissioning will take place over the following year, with operation scheduled to begin in the fall of 2015.

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