Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Queensland’s nuclear medicine from cyclotron produced at the hospital, leaving no nuclear waste problem

Cancer care in Queensland relies on nuclear medicine made in this concrete bunker http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-07-03/nuclear-medicine-concrete-bunker-central-to-states-cancer-care/9920624  ABC Radio Brisbane By Hailey Renault

Staff at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital’s nuclear medicine department get to work in the morning around the same time as a baker starts serving up hot bread.

But instead of kneading dough and priming ovens, the labcoat-clad workers manufacture medicines that diagnose and treat cancer.

It’s a delicate operation with rigorous quality control and testing protocols that start deep in the bowels of the hospital behind several layers of thick concrete.

A vault with walls more than a metre thick houses a particle accelerator called a cyclotron.

“It creates a proton beam which bombards oxygen-18 water and turns it into fluorine-18. That’s what we attach to those pharmaceuticals,” Dr Marissa Bartlett, manager of the Radiopharmaceutical Centre of Excellence, said.

The cyclotron is switched on at 4:00am every day to make a new batch of radiopharmaceuticals for lifesaving treatments and therapies.

“We make products that are taken up by cancer cells, so when a patient goes under the [PET] scanner the doctors can see pictures and images of where the cancer cells are,” Dr Bartlett told ABC Radio Brisbane’s Katherine Feeney.

“One of the therapies some patients who have cancer can have is a radionuclide therapy, which goes to the cancer cells and uses radiation to kill those cells.”

There’s no hazmat suits in sight — they’re not needed in a lab largely devoid of dangerous chemicals — but Dr Bartlett said lab workers were protected from radiation by a series of lead, lead-glass and concrete shields.

“When the cyclotron is on it generates very large amounts of radiation so it would be extremely dangerous to be anywhere near it when it’s on,” she said.

“In order to have it on campus we have it inside a concrete room. The walls of that room are thicker than I am tall.”

Medicines go direct to patients

Even though Dr Bartlett described the nuclear medicine department as an “obscure little branch” of hospital operations, many Queenslanders would come into contact with the radiopharmaceuticals it produced.

The Cancer Council of Queensland estimates nearly 27,000 people receive a cancer diagnosis each year.

“One of the things that makes this an amazing place to work is that you literally walk past the patients to get to the lab,” Dr Bartlett said.

“They might get news they really don’t want or maybe they’re coming back to see how their cancer is progressing or responding to treatment.

“We’re very aware of the patients who are lining up every day to get the products we make.”

And what happens to any radioactive materials that aren’t used?

“Everything we make has a very short half-life, so we basically store it until it decays away,” Dr Bartlett said.

“Then it’s completely cold and you wouldn’t know that it had been radioactive.”

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July 6, 2018 - Posted by | health, Queensland, technology

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