What Is a Cyclotron Facility?

A cyclotron is a type of particle accelerator. It produces radioactive isotopes that can be used for nuclear imaging. Stable, non-radioactive isotopes are put into the cyclotron, which accelerates charged particles (protons) to high energy in a magnetic field. When the stable isotopes react with the particle beam, a nuclear reaction occurs between the protons and the target atoms, creating radioactive isotopes for nuclear medicine and other purposes.

Radioisotopes used in medicine do not stay radioactive for very long. For this reason, the laboratories for manufacturing a nuclear imaging drug must be close to both the cyclotron that produces the isotopes, and the PET-CT scanners where the drug is used – in our case, at the Royal University Hospital’s nuclear medicine department in Saskatoon, hospitals in Manitoba and Alberta, and the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in Saskatoon.

The cyclotron, with adjoining laboratories for safe handling of radioactive substances and performing nuclear imaging on living specimens, are collectively called the “Cyclotron Facility.”

What happens at the Cyclotron Facility?

In addition to producing isotopes for PET-CT scanners, the Cyclotron Facility supports animal and human health imaging and research, and crop/plant imaging and research, all led by users from academia and industry within Saskatchewan and beyond.

The Cyclotron Facility can also be used to develop new compounds called radiopharmaceuticals. These advanced molecules can improve detection, diagnosis and targeted treatment of diseases like cancers, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis. By tagging specific biomolecules with radioisotopes, scientists can track the processes that lead to diseases in specific organs, based on how the ‘tagged’ molecules are absorbed. 

User access to the Cyclotron Facility enables innovation in radiochemistry and radiopharmaceutical development, to preclinical testing of diagnostic or therapeutic compounds, clinical trials, and finally, applications. All this work can generate new knowledge about life processes in plants, animals, and humans.

Essentially, students, faculty and researchers from a wide array of disciplines can find solutions to complex problems by accessing the specialized capabilities of the Cyclotron Facility.

What kind of cyclotron is at our facility?

The Fedoruk Centre operates a 24 MeV cyclotron from Advanced Cyclotron Systems Inc., with adjoining labs for safe handling of nuclear substances.