SNM: Cyclotron production of Tc-99m could alleviate isotope shortage

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In a comparative study presented at SNM’s 57th annual meeting in Salt Lake City, researchers showed direct production of technetium-99m (Tc-99m) using cyclotrons is a potential cost-effective means to alleviate the isotope crisis.

“This research provides a near-term solution for the medical isotope shortage and the associated global interruptions of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99) supply, the high costs of reactor maintenance, radioactive waste processing and eventual reactor decommissioning,” said lead author Brigitte Guerin, PhD, researcher at the department of nuclear medicine and radiobiology at the Universite de Sherbrooke in Quebec City.

“These realities make the use of safe cyclotron technology attractive for the regional supply of Tc-99m, while facilitating the expanding role of molecular imaging in diagnosing and treating critical medical conditions, including cancer and heart disease,” Guerin said.

The study focused on the direct production of Tc-99m from molybdenum-100 by high-current, medium-energy medical cyclotron and compared the chemical, radiochemical and biological properties of cyclotron and generator-produced technetium for medical use.

In the study, researchers compared the scintigraphic images and distribution patterns of both cyclotron and generator-produced agents, as well as prepared imaging agents used in molecular imaging of the thyroid, bone and heart in healthy rats.

Cyclotron- and generator-produced Tc-99m radiopharmaceuticals were shown to be radioisotopically, chemically and biologically equivalent, giving matching images and identical kinetic and biodistribution patterns in animals, according to the researchers.

However, it is important to note that most PET radiopharmacies have lower energy cyclotrons that are not equipped to produce large quantities of Tc-99m using this method, added Guerin and colleagues.

They concluded further large-scale studies need to be implemented before full-scale production of Tc-99m could begin in regional medical cyclotrons.