Two medical and industrial radioactive isotopes which can be used for cancer diagnosis and image diagnosis have been localized. So far South Korea has entirely relied on foreign suppliers for the two isotopes.
A research team led by Dr. Park Jung-hoon and Dr. Heo Min-gu at the Advanced Radiation Technology Institute, an affiliate of the Korean Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), announced on Oct. 24 that they have successfully localized germanium-68 and scandium-44, by using the RET-30 cyclotron.
A cyclotron is a particle accelerator which produces radioactive isotopes by accelerating protons. The research team separated and refined germanium-68 and scandium-44 by applying chromatography based on specially designed synthetic resins.
Germanium-68 is used to maintain the accuracy of radiometric equipment as well as core materials of generators of radioactive isotopes for cancer diagnosis. It is expensive and mostly imported from overseas. As it has a long half-life of about 270 days, if it is mass-produced domestically it can be exported abroad. The research team separated and refined it by using the resin chromatographic method after delivering high-energy proton beams to gallium, the target material for the production of Germanium-68.
Scandium-44, a next-generation radioactive isotope for cancer diagnosis, has a short half-life, and thus can hardly be imported. Currently, the radioactive isotope is used only in some nations which have the technology to produce it. The research team succeed in extracting it through the resin chromatographic method after delivering proton beams to calcium target compressed using a press.
The amount of the two radioactive isotopes produced one time reaches tens of mCi, an enough amount to supply to five research institutes. Currently, Seoul National University Hospital and National Cancer Center want the two radioactive isotopes domestically produced. From the first half of 2020 the two radioactive isotopes will be provided to domestic institutions.
In order to secure stable supply, the KAERI plans to build facilities to mass produce the two radioactive isotopes and steadily increase the production.