Researchers in Canada announce Tc-99m breakthrough

Researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada have shown they can successfully produce technetium-99m (Tc-99m) with a cyclotron. The cyclotron can produce enough Tc-99m for up to 1,000 diagnostic procedures in a single day.

“We were asked to show that we could make it in the quantities that are required to supply a province and we’ve done it,” Sandy McEwan, a professor at the University of Alberta, said in a new release on the school’s website. “We are the only people who have done that.”

John Wilson, the manager of University of Alberta’s Medical Isotope and Cyclotron Facility, pointed out in the same release how this Tc-99m is different from other Tc-99m.

“One advantage with cyclotron-produced technetium is that the cyclotron is an electrical machine,” Wilson said. “We don’t produce radioactive waste and it’s very safe. When the electricity stops, the cyclotron stops and there is no hazard to the public. There are none of the issues you have with a reactor in terms of public perception, long-term waste and the huge initial cost of construction.”

McEwan also explained that the team’s cyclotron can produce Tc-99m and other, newer PET imaging isotopes simultaneously. This is especially important, McEwan noted, because Tc-99m may soon stop being so widely needed as other technologies evolve.  

“When the technetium market dies, technology that is specific for technetium production dies because it can’t be used for anything else, whereas a cyclotron can produce a variety of different isotopes for diagnostic imaging that are used in medicine,” McEwan said.

Jan Andersson, a researcher at the University of Alberta, and colleagues published a study on their work with TC-99m for Nuclear Medicine and Biology.