Given the current high costs of making radioisotopes used in nuclear medicine, there is considerable scope of collaboration between India and Russia for their manufacture at affordable cost, according to an Indian expert. Chandigarh-based Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) Professor Baljinder Singh told IANS here on the sidelines of the just-concluded 10th Atomexpo organised by Russian state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom that such cooperation has become essential in view of the global shortage of molybdenum, isotopes of which are used in tens of millions of medical diagnostic procedures annually.
The molybdenum isotope 99mTc, for instance, is the most commonly used medical radioisotope worldwide. “The molybdenum daughter radionuclide 99mTc is used the world over for imaging on gamma cameras,” Singh said. “Most nuclear reactors have molybdenum as a by-product — there is a shortage of which globally.”
Singh, who is a jury member at the Atomexpo2018 for selecting the best research projects in the category “Nuclear Technologies for better Healthcare”, pointed out that as a leader in civilian nuclear technology, India is among a few countries making “significant” efforts to produce radioisotopes. “India has made significant strides in this direction and the task of developing Linear Accelerator (LINAC) technology has been undertaken by Sameer (Society of Applied Microwave Electronics and Engineering and Research) located in IIT Mumbai,” he said.
“It is a Rs 100-crore project being funded by the Telecommunications Ministry. Apart from India, Canada and Russia are the only other countries undertaking advanced level research in this area.” According to him, in view of the importance of nuclear medicine in early detection of cancer and the recent emergence of new radionuclides for effective treatment, an effort is needed in India to provide these at an affordable cost.
“Developed countries like the US and Japan have about four PET (positron emission tomography) scanners per million population followed by Europe at 2, and Australia at 1.6 per million. India scores very low with 0.1 PET scanners per million population,” Singh said. “To have a reasonable ratio of 1 PET scanner per million population over the next ten years, India needs about 1,400 PET scanners and an equal number of gamma cameras.”
He suggested that through tie-ups with Russia, India could arrange to be supplied with such imaging equipment at affordable cost. Singh’s wish list at this Black Sea resort includes a collaboration with Russia in human capacity building in this area. “We urgently require international collaboration on radiopharmacy training, as there is no such facility in India.”
Partnering with a foreign institute having nuclear facility for production of medically useful radioisotopes, and radiochemistry training are required urgently as we have no such course in the country as yet,” he said. “Panjab University, Chandigarh, has taken a lead in starting an M.Sc Nuclear Medicine programme in 2007, jointly with PGIMER.” Singh is hoping that his agenda would figure in the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin scheduled to take place here next week.