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Ongoing worldwide shortage of medical isotopes could threaten patient care, says expert
Date:3/18/2009

A University of Nottingham expert is calling on the Government to provide substantial new investment into the production of medical isotopes or face a dangerous shortage that threatens to compromise patient healthcare.

Alan Perkins, Professor of Medical Physics at The University of Nottingham and President Elect of the British Nuclear Medical Society (BNMS), will tell the BBC's Material World today that a series of disastrous setbacks in the worldwide production of radionuclides had recently caused disruption to clinical services. Although the recent crisis has now passed we now need to "plan for failure" to ensure the future provision of essential diagnostic imaging procedures for thousands of UK patients.

Professor Perkins said: "The medical use of radionuclides is probably the single most beneficial application of atomic and nuclear sciences to mankind. I am advocating further investment in alternative means for producing medical radionuclides for the benefit of patients who desperately need them."

Technetium-99m (Tc-99m) is used as a radioactive tracer in nuclear medicine investigations such as gamma cameras, which allow doctors to see inside a patient's body to track down damaged organs and tissues and diagnose a range of life threatening diseases, including cancer, heart problems and renal failure.

Globally, nuclear medicine investigations are the second most common diagnostic imaging procedure after x-ray CT and more than 28 million procedures are carried out each year using Tc-99m. Around 80 per cent of clinical nuclear medicine work is dependent on the routine availability of the radioisotope molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), from which Tc-99m is derived, which has a half-life of three days and cannot therefore be stockpiled.

Ninety-five per cent of the world's Mo-99 is produced by five commercial nuclear reactors NRU at Chalk River in Canada, HFR at Petten in The Netherland, BR-2 at Fleurus in Belgium, OSIRIS at Sacl
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Contact: Emma Thorne
emma.thorne@nottingham.ac.uk
44-115-951-5793
University of Nottingham
Source:Eurekalert

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