Featured Postdoc: Dr. Jesse Tanguay

Postdoc Talk Event: 6 October 2015 (7 PM), at the Railway Club
(all welcome, more details)

Postdoc Talk Title:
Avoiding the medical isotope crisis: Canada’s alternative production strategy

Coronary artery disease remains a leading cause of morbidity and mortality in Canada. Critical to the diagnosis of coronary artery disease is a medical-imaging technique called single-photon emission computed tomography (SPECT), which is used to visualize regions of the heart muscle with reduced blood flow. SPECT procedures require injection of a radioactive isotope. After injection, the radio-isotope travels to the heart muscle where it emits photons that can be detected using radiation detectors that are located outside of the body. Technetium-99m (99mTc) is the most commonly used radio-isotope for SPECT procedures.

99mTc is currently obtained from five nuclear reactors spread across the globe. In 2009-2010, reactors in Canada and the Netherlands, which together supply approximately 70% of the global 99mTc demand, underwent temporary maintenance shut-downs which resulted in a worldwide 99mTc shortage. Discontinuation of the reactor in Canada in 2018 is expected to result in another 99mTc supply crisis. If this crisis is not averted, the resulting shortages of 99mTc will result in delays or cancellations of cardiac SPECT procedures throughout all of Canada, and potentially worldwide.

Dr. Tanguay is working with a British-Columbia-led team of Canadian researchers to develop and implement an alternative production strategy that has the potential to reduce dependence on such a centralized and increasingly unstable 99mTc supply chain. The proposed solution would use commercially available medical cyclotrons to produce 99mTc for regional distribution. This approach would eliminate the need for nuclear reactors for production of 99mTc. In this Postdoc Talks, Dr. Tanguay will discuss the current status of cyclotron production of 99mTc, and his role in developing alternative strategies for diagnosing coronary artery disease.

Dr. Tanguay received is PhD from Western University in 2013. For his dissertation, Dr. Tanguay investigated the potential for new medical x-ray imaging technologies to improve the diagnosis of coronary artery disease. Dr. Tanguay is currently a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Radiology at the University of British Columbia where he is working with a team of Canadian scientists to develop and implement an alternative method to produce technetium-99m, which is the most commonly used medical radioisotope.