India’s largest Cyclotron, a type of particle accelerator that produces radioisotopes, for medical applications became operational last week in Kolkata. According to the Department of Atomic Energy, the facility called Cyclone-30 at the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC) in Kolkata will provide affordable radioisotopes and related radiopharmaceuticals. Cyclone-30 is in the first phase of production generating Flourodeocyglucose (FDG), a radioisotope used for date imaging and oncological tissue imaging.
While the Dhruva reactor at Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) in Mumbai also produces this radioisotope, it is difficult to be transported to hospitals in far-off areas. “This radioisotope can be used for imaging of lungs, brain and heart and gives more accurate images. Since the radioisotope has a half-life of 110 minutes, it is economically viable to have such a machine close to the hospital. With the Cyclone-30 machine in VECC, we will be able to cater to all the cancer hospitals in Kolkata and some in eastern India. The machine has a capacity of catering to 60 to 90 patients in a day,” Dr Amitava Roy, Director, VECC — a research and development wing of the Department of Atomic Energy.
The machine is soon expected to produce Germanium 68 and Gallium 68 radioisotopes — both imported and expensive. “Cyclone-30 will become the first and only facility in the country to produce Germanium 68 isotopes, which is used in the diagnosis of breast cancer. Simultaneously, we will be able to produce Palladium 103 isotopes, which is used for the treatment of prostate cancer,” said Roy. He said the machine at VECC was likely to bring down costs of radioisotopes for the pharmaceutical industry such as Germanium 68 by almost half.
The Cyclotron facility became operation after a 30 MeV beam reached the Faraday Cup — a metal cup designed to catch charged particles in vacuum — for the first time last week. The beam was then used to produce FDG. In its future stages, the machine will also work on the production of Iodine 123 isotopes, which can help detect thyroid cancer. “The machine can also be used for research in the fields of material science and nuclear physics,” said Roy.