Rounding off a fantastic year for the “Unveiling the Universe” lecture series, Dr. Paul Schaffer, Head of the Nuclear Medicine program at TRIUMF, delivered a captivating talk on Wednesday, November 27th at Science World. Schaffer described the science behind medical isotope production, how those isotopes are used today, and how they could be used in the future. The lecture series is a joint production of TRIUMF and Science World, with this lecture sponsored by ARPICO, the Society of Italian Researchers and Professionals in Western Canada.
In the lecture, Schaffer illustrated how our global healthcare systems are currently experiencing a revolution in the use and development of medical isotopes and radiopharmaceuticals for the diagnosis, treatment, and management of acute and chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Currently, the majority of these isotopes are being produced at nuclear reactor facilities, the most important of which are aging with limited remaining life spans.
Schaffer explained how the impressive recent growth and the potential of isotopes and radiopharmaceuticals for medicine are predicated on the widespread availability of isotope-production facilities to drive research and development. The aging infrastructure has been vulnerable to unexpected shutdowns – two such incidents occurring worldwide in recent weeks – a risk Canadian scientists are seeking to mitigate by developing create a stable isotope supply with widely available cyclotrons. Schaffer outlined how TRIUMF is leveraging its experience in medical isotope production with cyclotron particle accelerators to lead a team of Canadian innovators developing a cyclotron-based method for creating technetium-99m, by far the most widely-used isotope in medical imaging. His talk concluded with an overview of exciting new radiopharmaceuticals currently in or near clinical trials, radiotracers that can serve as alternatives to Tc-99m imaging agents, as well as new, targeted tracers for the diagnosis and staging of various diseases.
Paul Schaffer is the Division Head of the Nuclear Medicine program at TRIUMF. He joined TRIUMF in 2009 after a three-year station as Lead Scientist at General Electric Global Research in upstate NY where he was responsible for developing novel radioisotope tracers for GE Healthcare. At TRIUMF, Schaffer is now responsible for maintaining the medical isotope and radiotracer production programs in support of neurological and oncology research.
For his leadership in the field of nuclear medicine, Dr. Schaffer was recently recognized as one of British Columbia’s Top Forty under 40 by Business in Vancouver magazine. He continues to redefine the TRIUMF nuclear medicine program as a leader, an entrepreneur and one of British Columbia's most promising scientific talents.
For more information about TRIUMF’s nuclear medicine program, please visit their website. Stay tuned for more lectures coming in 2014!
Top photograph: Dr. Anadi Canepa, on behalf of ARPICO, presenting Dr. Paul Schaffer with a token of appreciation.
–Melissa M. Baluk, Communications Coordinator