Age of Nuclear Medicine
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#278July 2024

Age of Nuclear Medicine

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Today, advanced nuclear medicine technologies help to early diagnose and cure diseases that have been considered incurable until recently. These technologies have been pursued by Rosatom for decades. Here is our story of what the Russian nuclear corporation has achieved in this field.

Nuclear medicine gained traction back in the Soviet era. With 650 radionuclide diagnostic laboratories, which conducted over 1.5 million studies annually, and 20 radionuclide therapy departments with a total of 2,000 beds, the USSR held global leadership in the use of nuclear technology in medicine. Around 140 commercial and medical radioactive isotopes and 40 radiopharmaceuticals were produced in the country.

Rosatom is now setting up an end-to-end healthcare chain using nuclear medicine solutions. This comprises four principal areas: production and supply of isotopes and radiopharmaceuticals, development of high-tech medical equipment, establishment of medical infrastructure, and development and application of irradiation solutions for medical products and foodstuffs.

Last January, Rosatom launched the construction of Europe’s largest radiopharmaceuticals factory with 21 production lines in Russia’s Obninsk. It will produce dozens of substances for diagnostics and therapy of oncological, cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases. Production processes at the factory will be fully compliant with the Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), an international quality control system for the production of medicines. The factory will be commissioned as early as 2025.

For Russia and other countries

Russia is not the only target market for Rosatom’s nuclear medicine solutions — ​the Russian nuclear corporation assists its foreign partners from 50 countries in the development of nuclear medicine.

Russia has been a top-five player of the global isotope market for many years. Since demand for isotope products remains consistently high, Rosatom increased its annual exports by 15 % in 2023. Medical isotopes produced by Rosatom enable about 2.5 million diagnostic and therapeutic procedures to be performed in Russia and abroad.

Rosatom is the largest supplier of radioisotopes to the Latin American markets. For instance, the company’s products meet more than 30 % of Brazil’s demand for medical isotopes.

However, isotope supplies are by no means the only area of cooperation with other countries in nuclear medicine. Rosatom offers its partners a wide range of products, from state-of-the-art medical equipment to nuclear research and technology centers. One of such centers is now under construction in Bolivia. It comprises a research reactor with nuclear laboratories, a cyclotron facility for the production of radiopharmaceuticals, a multi-­purpose food irradiation center, and a radiobiology and radioecology laboratory. In Egypt, Rosatom is promoting Tianox, a nitric oxide therapy machine for the treatment of adults and children, including newborns.

Good neighborly relations

Armenia is Rosatom’s other partner country in the field of nuclear medicine. For example, the Russian nuclear corporation supplies technetium‑99m generators to Armenia. This is one of the most in-demand medical isotopes used in over 80 % of all diagnostic procedures. In May last year, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Rosatom chief Alexey Likhachev met to discuss the expansion of cooperation in nuclear medicine. This was followed by a working meeting between Rosatom experts and heads of Armenian medical institutions. The parties confirmed their readiness to further maintain collaboration in nuclear medicine, particularly in iodine‑131 treatments and palliative therapy with samarium‑153 oxabifor produced in Russia.

Other CIS countries are also among Rosatom’s partners. Since September 2023, the Russian nuclear corporation has been meeting 100 % of demand for technetium‑99m generators from the medical institutions of the Republic of Belarus. According to the contract signed last year, Rosatom will supply more than 900 generators to Belarus from August 2023 through July 2024.

In April this year, Rosatom and the Healthcare Department of the Zhambyl Region of the Republic of Kazakhstan signed a memorandum of understanding and cooperation in nuclear medicine. The parties plan to focus their efforts on the diagnostics and treatment of oncologies with peaceful atom technologies.

In 2023, a memorandum of cooperation was signed between Rosatom, the Eurasian Academy of Good Practices, and the State Center for Expertise and Standardization of Medicines, Medical Devices and Medical Equipment of Uzbekistan. The parties agreed to develop long-term, effective and mutually beneficial cooperation in ensuring safety, efficacy and quality of medicines and pharmaceutical substances in the EAEU.

Also last year, Rosatom and the Kyrgyz Ministry of Health signed a memorandum of cooperation in the application of non-power nuclear technologies in healthcare. As agreed, the parties will join their efforts to deliver high-tech medical projects in Kyrgyzstan. In particular, they will establish a radiopharmaceutical drugstore and a molecular imaging facility at the National Center for Oncology and Hematology to use advanced methods for the diagnostics and treatment of oncologies and other diseases.