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B.C. team announces breakthrough in medical isotope research

A cyclotron, used in the production of medical isotopes.

Globe files/Globe files

Researchers in British Columbia say they're reached a milestone in the development of a new medical isotope, which could help address a national shortage.

A team from TRIUMF, a national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, at the B.C. Cancer Agency says it has used a medical cyclotron designed and manufactured in Richmond, B.C., for large-scale production of TC-99m, the isotope needed for medical imaging such as CT scans.

Paul Schaffer, head of TRIUMF's nuclear medicine division, says the process produced enough of the isotope to supply a metropolitan area.

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A shutdown of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s Chalk River research reactor in 2009 caused a worldwide shortage of the medical isotopes used to detect cancer and heart ailments.

Ottawa has said isotope production at Atomic Energy's National Research Universal reactor will end in 2016, and earlier this year announced $21 million for research into technology to produce them without a nuclear reactor.

Paul Schaffer, head of the nuclear medicine division, says it's a crucial step toward meeting isotope needs once production at NRU ends.

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