September 27, 2010, Vancouver, BC – The official opening of a new $15-million radiopharmaceutical facility brings the production of radiotracers used in PET/CT scans to the BC Cancer Agency’s Vancouver Centre.

The 557-square-metre (6,000-square-foot) radiopharmaceutical facility – with the most advanced cyclotron at its core – has the capacity to provide radiotracers for up to six PET/CT scanners. The new facility is home to the province’s first publicly funded PET/CT scanner.

“The radiopharmaceutical facility establishes a safe and independent source of radiotracer, which is critical to perform PET/CT scans and allows our health-care professionals to plan cancer treatment effectively,” said Minister of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development Dr. Moira Stilwell on behalf of Minister of Health Services, Kevin Falcon. “Our province is well-known for providing the highest level of cancer care in the country and this latest technology is another move towards enhancing that reputation.”

The current PET/CT scanner is a whole-body imaging tool that allows physicians to more accurately diagnose and manage disease, particularly cancer. It can scan more than 3,000 patients annually.

“Having the best diagnostic tools available provides health professionals with the information needed to deliver high-quality health care to all British Columbians,” said Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid, Minister of Education and MLA for Vancouver-Fairview. “As a physician and former cancer patient, I know the importance of having an accurate diagnosis in battling this disease."

“This is a significant investment on behalf of the provincial government to ensure cancer patients receive the best care possible,” said Wynne Powell, Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) board chair. “It represents the commitment of PHSA and the government to support evidence-based care which will ultimately improve patient outcomes.”

The radiotracer used for PET/CT is a combination of a special type of sugar combined with a safe radioactive component, which is injected into a patient. The radiotracer – called FDG (fluorodeoxyglucose) – is absorbed by malignant or cancerous cells in the body. Malignant cells are metabolically active, while benign cells are not, and use sugar as an energy source. The increased activity allows physicians to identify where abnormal metabolic activity is occurring in the body.

“The announcement today is not only a major step forward in securing a long-term, stable source of radiotracer for clinical patient use, but it also sets the stage for a robust provincial research program for the discovery, development and application of new radiotracers,” said Dr. David Levy, president, BC Cancer Agency.

“PET/CT is highly effective in staging, diagnosing, and managing cancer,” said Dr. Don Wilson, medical director, Centre of Excellence for Functional Cancer Imaging, BC Cancer Agency. “The information provided by PET/CT enables physicians to avoid unnecessary surgeries and avoid treatments unlikely to benefit patients. For lung cancer, PET/CT has had a major impact on treatment, by decreasing the need for surgery in about 50 per cent of all cases.”

The addition of the radiopharmaceutical lab gives the BC Cancer Agency the unique opportunity to not only produce the FDG radiotracer on site, but also conduct research and translate discoveries as quickly as possible into better clinical care.

“With the opening of the radiopharmaceutical facility, there is a great opportunity for the BC Cancer Agency and its partners to contribute to the development of new, targeted radiotracers,” said Dr. Francois Benard, scientific director, Centre of Excellence for Functional Cancer Imaging, BC Cancer Agency. “Depending on the sensitivity of the tracer, a PET/CT scan can tell a physician the location and size of the tumour as well as how well a patient is responding to treatment, which enables the treatment to be tailored accordingly.”

The new facility includes three clean rooms to manufacture radiotracers for clinical use and conduct research for new agents. In addition to housing the cyclotron, the facility includes a specially constructed chamber for a second PET/CT scanner, which will double the current scanning output while enhancing the agency’s research program. The second scanner is expected to be operational in 2011.

The BC Cancer Agency, an agency of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer, and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care.

As an independent charitable organization, BC Cancer Foundation raises funds exclusively for the BC Cancer Agency that go to supporting innovative cancer research and compassionate enhancements to patient care.

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For more information, please contact:
Bernadette Murphy
Media Relations Manager
Ministry of Health Services
Media Line: 250.952.1887

Papinder Rehncy
Communications Leader
BC Cancer Agency
Tel: 604.877.6261