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Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Hevesy Laboratory provides emergency assistance to Zealand hospitals

The Hevesy Laboratory at Risø DTU stepped in when the delivery of radioactive isotopes for Danish hospitals failed. Among others, the laboratory was able to provide the Danish university hospitals Rigshospitalet and Bispebjerg with an alternative to cancelling vital bone scans.

Technetium-99m is a significant isotope in several radioactive pharmaceuticals which help doctors trace different diseases. These useful isotopes are normally produced at the few remaining high-flux reactor sites in Europe. The reactor plants try to coordinate their service shut-downs so that at least one facility is always able to supply the isotopes.

However, last week things still went wrong as the Petten reactor in the Netherlands, which is the largest of the suppliers, had trouble with its cooling water system at the same time as the other reactors were shut down. Among others, Rigshospitalet’s nuclear medicine department consequently expected to have to cancel important examinations so they contacted Risø for help.

Hevesy able to supply Fluorine-18 fluoride
Technetium cannot be produced in a cyclotron like the one at the Hevesy Laboratory, but Risø found another way to help. For some time, Risø DTU has been working on starting up the production of Fluorine-18 fluoride, a tracer with excellent properties, for example in relation to the so-called bone scintigraphies which were affected by the lack of Technetium-99m.

“So while Rigshospitalet prepared the medical part of the application, we dropped everything and established and described the required production process and quality assurance. At the same time, we contacted the Danish Medicines Agency,” explains Lars Martiny, Head of Department. “Normally, it takes a couple of months to obtain permission from the Agency, but they were able to reduce the processing time to just two days. After only one week of intense efforts, the laboratory was able to deliver the first batch of Fluorine-18 fluoride to Rigshospitalet”. Since then, two other Zealand hospitals have made use of the permission.

The temporary permission is valid for three months, and emergency help is expected to be required for about another month. The Hevesy Laboratory will subsequently have to prepare for a more permanent production of the tracer.

“It was a very satisfactory process for all parties involved,” says Lars Martiny. “It was a test of our ability to respond quickly and obtain permission in record time in an emergency situation. It is of great value for us to know that our systems work, and it is nice to see how hospitals, the Danish Medicines Agency and manufacturers are able to work together in emergency situations.”

A bone scintigraphy can, among other things, show the metastatic spread of cancer in bones.

Tecnetium-99m is generated on the basis of Molybdenum-99, which is produced from U-235 via a fission process. The reactor must have a high flux (neutron density) which only a few reactors in Europe and the rest of the world are now able to supply.

With Fluorine-18 fluoride the resolution of the scanning images is superior to that produced by means of Technetium. The Hevesy Laboratory has therefore for some time been keen to supply this particular tracer to its laboratory partners.

Source : RISO

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