iThemba LABS and NTP Radioisotopes on Friday celebrated the arrival of a new Siemens 11 MeV cyclotron.
The cyclotron was installed and commissioned at iThemba LABS’ Faure site just outside of Cape Town during September and would be used to manufacture the radiopharmaceutical 18F Fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG), the first FDG product already having been produced on September 26.
FDG is the most common radiopharmaceutical used to carry out positron emission tomography (PET) scanning, a technique which is used in the diagnosis of a number of cancers and allows for treatment guidance and management of the disease.
NTP Radioisotopes is a subsidiary of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa and has its main production facility at Pelindaba, in the North West province. It is the key South African supplier of FDG.
However, as FDG has a half-life of just under 110 minutes, NTP Radioistotopes has had a six-year collaboration with iThemba Labs to produce the radiopharmaceutical to supply local PET facilities in the Western and Eastern Cape.
Earlier in 2012, the opening of a new positron emission tomography/computed tomography (PET/CT) centre situated at Tygerberg Hospital increased demand on FDG production at iThemba LABS, which has prompted the acquisition of the new Siemens 11 MeV cyclotron to ensure better security of supply.
While NTP Radioisotopes purchased the cyclotron at a cost of approximately R10-million, iThemba LABS provided the R2-million that was required to construct the infrastructure to house the cyclotron, as while the new cyclotron is self-shielding, the construction of a vault-like facility with reinforced flooring was still required.
Both stakeholders hoped the new facility would be able to meet the demand for FDG in the Western Cape for the next 15 to 20 years. At present there were only two cancer diagnostic infrastructure centres in the Western Cape requiring FDG, these being the Tygerberg facility and the Cape PET/CT Centre situated in the Panorama Medical Centre.
The new cyclotron would allow for the production of the FDG five days a week and would consequently reduce the demand on the main 200 MeV accelerator at iThemba LABS which had up until September been producing the FDG supply for the region. At present the 200 MeV cyclotron’s time is divided equally between radioisotope production, physics research and medical radiation treatment.
Dr Annare Ellmann, executive head of nuclear medicine at Tygerberg Hospital was excited about the facility. “The benefits that this brings to our patients one cannot really express, they are so multiple. On the one side for the regular oncology patients, our regular other chemical patients . . . but also specifically in the academic sector the value that we can add to research,” she said.
Speaking to Engineering News Online, iThemba LABS head of radionuclide production Dr Clive Naidoo, said the 11 MeV cyclotron would also have the capacity to support the production of other 18F radiopharmaceuticals such as 18F-DOPA and 18F-fallypride for use in medical diagnosis.
The operation of the equipment will be undertaken by Naidoo’s existing staff complement and no additional personnel have been required. According to Naidoo, the equipment is on the whole easier to maintain than iThemba LABS larger cyclotrone with maintenance periods of only two weeks required every six months, which is significantly less than that required by the 200 MeV facility which can add up to a few months each year, he said.