Saskatchewan Centre for Innovations in Cyclotron Science

What is a cyclotron? A cyclotron uses electricity and magnetic fields to accelerate protons (subatomic particles) to extremely high speeds. These protons can be steered so that they collide with targets to produce radioactive isotopes (radioisotopes), which are essential for many diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in human and animal health.

As part of the proposed Saskatchewan Centre for Innovations in Cyclotron Science (SCI-CS), the University of Saskatchewan will be acquiring a cyclotron to support Saskatchewan's first positron emission tomography-computed tomography (PET-CT) scanner, which will be purchased by the Saskatoon Health Region and installed at Royal University Hospital.

PET-CT scans have a wide variety of uses, but are especially valuable in cancer treatment, where they allow doctors to precisely locate tumours and see if treatments are working. A PET-CT camera combines both positron emission tomography (PET) and x-ray computed tomography (CT) in a single device so that images acquired from both devices can be superimposed into a single image to reveal fine details that would not have been as visible using either technique alone.

The isotopes used by PET-CT scanners are produced by a cyclotron. Because cyclotron-produced radioisotopes decay within hours, the cyclotron must be located near the scanner. While the PET-CT will be situated at the Royal University Hospital, the existing Animal Resource Centre (ARC)will be repurposed and expanded to accommodate the cyclotron.

Saskatchewan and Prince Edward Island are the only Canadian provinces without PET scanning facilities. About 300 Saskatchewan cancer patients must travel outside the province every year for scans. The cyclotron can also be used to investigate other short-lived isotopes that promise to reveal ever-clearer pictures of the body's inner workings.

The SCI-CS facility will offer a wide range of research opportunities in medicine, plant and animal science, and materials science. It will bring together students, faculty, and researchers from a wide array of disciplines, the Canadian Light Source, and industry partners, through inter disciplinary and cross-sector programs and problem-solving research initiatives. Together with facilities such as the Canadian Light Source, the cyclotron and PET-CT will provide unparalleled training opportunities for the highly skilled people necessary for these facilities.

The cyclotron and PET-CT facilities follow a long tradition of nuclear physics and nuclear medicine research and development at the U of S.This includes the country's first bettor for research and cancer treatment in the 1940s, the first cobalt-60 cancer treatments in the 1950s, and Canada's first high-energy linear accelerator at the Saskatchewan Accelerator Laboratory in the 1960s (now part of the Canadian Light Source synchrotron).

The project, still in its early stages of development, is expected to be substantially complete in 2014.