UT Southwestern Medical Center‘s new cyclotron facility in Dallas has expanded its Radiology Department’s capability for creating the radioactive isotopes used in imaging, cancer research, and to track cancers in cancer patients.
The new cyclotron lab, which is located the Bill and Rita Clements Advanced Medical Imaging Building on the UT Southwestern North Campus near the Moncrief Radiation Oncology Building, uses magnets to produce radioactive isotopes that are used as tracers used to help detect where cancer treatment should be concentrated and/or to help oncologists track how well therapies are working for their patients.
“While it is planned for translational and clinical research, this new technology will ultimately result in more effective patient care,” says Dr. Xiankai Sun, Director of Cyclotron and Radiochemistry Program in UT Southwestern’s Department of Radiology and Advanced Imaging Research Center (AIRC), and holds the Dr. Jack Krohmer Professorship in Radiation Physics. In addition, Dr. Sun co-directs the Preclinical Nuclear Imaging Laboratory with Dr. Orhan K. Öz in Radiology, which is equipped with state-of-the-art radiochemistry instruments and nuclear imaging scanners (Siemens Inveon PET/CT Multimodality System and BioScan NanoSPECT/CT Plus System) for molecular imaging research in small animal models.
Dr. Sun’s expertise is in design and synthesis of imaging probes and therapeutic agents for various diseases including cancer and diabetes. His research is funded by NIH, DOD, JDRFI, and CPRIT.
The UT Southwestern Medical Center Radiochemistry Program’s cyclotron facility is equipped with a current state-of-the-art General Electric PETtrace 880 cyclotron capable of producing both conventional and unconventional isotopes (15O, 13N, 11C, 18F; 64Cu, 86Y, and 89Zr) for both clinical and preclinical research using Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scanning on campus. A PET scan is a type of nuclear medicine imaging that measures important body functions, such as blood flow, oxygen use, and sugar (glucose) metabolism, and can thus help doctors evaluate how well organs and tissues are functioning and therapies are working.
The cyclotron produces short-lived radioisotopes, emitting positrons the key factor with PET scans, which are used in cancer diagnosis and treatment planning. Cancerous cells are revealed using PET scans along with imaging probes synthesized from the radioisotopes, enabling physicians and imaging technologists to track them in the patient’s body and determine see whether a cancer is responding to therapy.
“Positron-emission tomography, enabled by short-lived radiotracers produced by an on-site cyclotron, is an important, non-invasive, medical imaging tool for disease diagnosis, staging, and post-therapy evaluation,” says Dr. Sun in a UT Southwestern release.
Radioactive isotopes have short lifespans, in some instances as short as two minutes, making them difficult and expensive to transport. Consequently, the capability to produce isotopes on site can facilitate more scanning opportunities and a wider range of isotopes to be produced for expanded research projects as well as helping reduce transportation costs.
“The cyclotron makes short-lived, biomedical radioisotopes readily available on campus, alleviating current challenges in obtaining such radioisotopes from another location, and significantly expanding the basic science and clinical research opportunities through PET,” Dr. Sun explains.
“Developing the full potential of PET will contribute to UT Southwestern’s determination to build a world-class imaging research program, and boost the existing recognized strengths of UT Southwestern in biology, genetics, metabolism, and cancer research, says Dr. Neil Rofsky, Chairman of Radiology and Director of Translational Research for UT Southwestern’s Advanced Imaging Research Center.
“With the cyclotron as a new core resource, scientists, engineers, and medical professionals across disciplines will be able to work together toward the development and implementation of the latest imaging technologies for better patient care,” says Dr. Rofsky, who holds the Effie and Wofford Cain Distinguished Chair in Diagnostic Imaging. “While there is strong emphasis on cancer applications, the products we create from the cyclotron will enable discoveries that span across multiple areas of medicine and physiology.”
With imaging having become a mainstay in the physician’s diagnostic tool kit, Dr. Rofsky recruits radiologists who work across every specialty in UT Southwestern’s hospitals and clinics with their mission being to ensure that patients receive best-quality diagnoses and image-guided therapies from clinicians who genuinely care about their conditions and quality of life.
The UT Southwestern Radiology Department’s Cyclotron and Radiochemistry Program was established in order toto leverage cutting-edge imaging technology of positron-emission tomography for biomedical research, under auspices of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) and UT Southwestern, with input from the Advanced Imaging Research Center and its Director, Dr. Dean Sherry, Professor of Radiology and with the AIRC at UT Southwestern, and Professor of Chemistry at UT Dallas, where he holds the Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Systems Biology. The technology is particularly well-suited suited to providing greater understanding of cancer initiation and progression mechanisms, the intermediary metabolism of cancer cells, prognostic evaluation of cancer patients, and eventually early and individualized diagnosis and custom-tailored cancer treatments.