The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) forecasts that the demand for the clinical use of new diagnostic and therapeutic radioisotopes will continue to grow in the coming years, benefiting from public-private investments in research and development (R&D) and supply-side production capacity.
To address this topic and examine recent developments in the security of supply for medical radioisotopes, the NEA welcomed more than 200 international experts to take part in the International Workshop on Medical Radioisotopes Supply on 30-31 October 2023, including over 70 in-person participants in Paris.
Medical radioisotopes enable medical imaging to save millions of lives every year. But these radioisotopes are supplied by an ageing nuclear infrastructure, which threatens the security and availability of critical isotopes such as molybdenum-99 (99Mo). The workshop focused particularly on the status of the supply of 99Mo, as well as the actions needed to ensure it remains reliable.
The NEA welcomed more than 200 international experts to take part in the International Workshop on Medical Radioisotopes Supply on 30-31 October 2023, including over 70 in-person participants in Paris.
Speaking at the opening of the workshop, NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV highlighted the importance of developing a strong and secure supply chain for medical isotopes, sharing that he had personally seen the impact of the 2009-2010 medical isotopes supply crisis.
“I was at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission [US] at the time and visited hospitals and talked to doctors who told me that the situation was outrageous; there were going to be people who will have surgeries that they didn’t need to have, or get treatments using isotopes that gave them much higher doses. These outcomes were very frustrating to medical professionals.”
Director-General Magwood noted that while progress has been made on strengthening the supply chain, there was still heavy reliance on the largess of governments and too few young people entering the field.
“We need more young people coming into this business. This is not an area that you hear much about in the public domain, so when you talk to young people who are interested in STEM careers, going into a field in medical isotopes never comes up because they don’t know that it’s there,” said Director-General Magwood.
“I think that’s something that we could do a better job at broadcasting and making sure that people know about the importance of this area of work and the opportunities it holds,” he added.
Pictured: NEA Head of Nuclear Technology and Economics, Diane Cameron, NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV and Special Advisor to the Japan Atomic Energy Commission and Professor and Chair of Nuclear Medicine and Tracer Kinetics at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, Dr Jun Hatazawa, taking part in the medical radioisotopes workshop on October 30, Paris.
Dr Jun Hatazawa, Special Advisor to the Japan Atomic Energy Commission and Professor and Chair of Nuclear Medicine and Tracer Kinetics at Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine, in his opening remarks stressed the critical role that medical radioisotopes play in detecting and diagnosing a broad range of ailments.
“In medicine, the first step is to know the location, extensions and nature of the disease before the choice of therapy. The key issue is co-ordinated production and the global supply network of these radioisotopes.”
“Nuclear medicine for everyone globally, leaving no one behind - this is the hope and dream of human beings,” he added.
During the workshop, participants discussed the need for diversification within the supply chain to mitigate potential shortages. Strategies to enhance the reliability of 99Mo supply were discussed, with an emphasis on technological advancements, policy frameworks and international co-operation. The evolving landscape of diagnostic isotopes was a key topic, with discussions on emerging technologies and their impact on clinical practice.
As the discussions unfolded, it became clear that the future of medical radioisotopes will rely upon the success of international collaboration.
“For the NEA’s part, we are standing by to support and assist the community,” said Director-General Magwood.
“I hope that when you step back from your day-to-day struggles that you remember that you’re saving lives and making a difference for people all over the world and we are very pleased to be supporting you.”
Visit this link for more information on the NEA’s work on medical radioisotopes.