Nuclear technologies have been contributing to the improvement of people’s lives for decades. The practical appliance of nuclear science goes far beyond producing electricity. What benefits does the nuclear sector provide for people? Nowadays in many countries nuclear solutions are applied for community needs: in medicine, agriculture and other industries.
According to Rusatom Healthcare, today over 50% of radioactive isotopes produced in the world are used for medical purposes. Nuclear medicine is known for innovative diagnostic methods. Rosatom produces Molybdenum-99 for domestic and international market. That isotope is used for the production of Technetium-99m, the main diagnostic radionuclide.
Introduced in patient’s body, Tc-99m is then traced by tomography. 3D-images received are used to see places of tumor, metastases and abnormal focus. The two nuclear imaging techniques are Single Photon Emission Computed Tomography (SPECT) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET). Not only they allow accurate imaging, but also offer a deeper insight into each patient’s individual illness case. According to the Cancer Index, over 6 million new cases and 4 million deaths occur every year due to cancer in the Asian region. The rise in SPECT and PET scans is estimated to increase the Asia-Pacific nuclear medicine market by 10% (CAGR) between 2018 to 2023.
Currently nuclear diagnostic techniques are used mostly in cardiology and neurology. They are generally applied for detection of tumors and metastases of cancer. According to statistics, in the United States nuclear imaging examinations are now conducted on 40 patients per thousand people a year, in Japan – on 25 patients, in Austria – on 19.
Radioisotopes are also widely used for the treatment of oncology; the method is called radiation therapy. As an independent method or in combination with surgery or with chemotherapy, radiotherapy is prescribed to more than 80% of patients with malignancies. For example, brachytherapy - a form of radiotherapy requiring a radiation source being placed near affected area - is widely used for cervical, prostate, breast and skin cancer treatment.
Radioisotopes for nuclear medicine are produced in reactors and cyclotrons and Thailand has started to produce its own radioisotopes following the contract signing in 2017 between Kinetics Corporation (Thailand) and State Atomic Corporation Rosatom (Russia). Both parties agreed to supply a cyclotron and radiopharmaceutical complex - the first in Asia - for the Thailand Institute of Nuclear Technology (TINT).
The new cyclotron will allow the production of medical isotopes in Thailand which will help determine the stage of oncology, cardiovascular and neurological diseases accurately, and in many cases, the only way to prescribe appropriate treatment. The domestic cyclotron complex allows facilitating the delivery of cancer-detecting radioisotopes to patients in Thailand, saving time to initiate the proper treatment.
The facility located at Ongkharak Nuclear Research Centre in Nakhon Nayok has an area of more than 5400 m2, and can accommodate a cyclotron and several laboratories for the production of radiopharmaceuticals for nuclear medicine as well as serve as a platform for R&D activities in the field of radiation technologies and innovations.
Previously, all the isotopes for SPECT in Thailand are imported, with some PET isotopes produced in hospitals locally in amounts that cannot satisfy the demand. Thus, the new cyclotron supplied by Rosatom will allow Thailand to produce its own isotopes and will also drive the R&D activities in nuclear medicine.
“Apart from the cyclotron complex with TNIT, we firmly believe Thailand can lead the way in discussions and research studies in nuclear technologies. Our partnership with Chulalongkorn University, one of the top universities in Thailand and the region, will allow not only the partnership between Thailand and Russia to grow but to also intensify and contribute to the dialogue in nuclear awareness and its impact for Thailand,” – said Denis Cherednichenko, director general of Rusatom Healthcare.