The Atomic Energy Council (AEC) yesterday said it had developed a radioactive diagnostic agent for positron emission tomography that can improve the diagnosis of bone lesions, adding that the technique had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
Chen Jenn-tzong (陳振宗), an associate researcher at the council’s Institute of Nuclear Energy Research isotope application division, said about 200,000 cases of bone lesions occur in the country each year.
While primary bone lesions — anomalies in the growth or structure of a bone, including bone tumors or cancers — often occurred in young people, middle-age patients were often diagnosed with metastatic bone cancer, or cancer that has spread from another body part where it started in the bones, Chen said.
However, bone cancer in young people is often misdiagnosed as sports injuries, thus delaying the critical timing for treatment, he said.
At present, 99mTc-Methyl diphosphonate (Tc-99m MDP) is widely used globally in radioactive isotope medical tests to detect bone lesions, especially for bone scans on cancer patients to diagnose whether metastasis has occurred, Taipei Veterans General Hospital’s Department of Nuclear Medicine director Wang Shyh-Jen (王世楨) said.
Wang said a global shortage of technetium-99m (Tc-99m) emerged in 2009, when two aging nuclear reactors that provided nearly 70 percent of the supply of molybdenum-99 (from which Tc-99m is derived) were shut down repeatedly for extended maintenance periods.
During the shortage, the council began developing alternative methods to supply domestic needs, Chen said, adding that the new medical contrast medium — sodium fluoride F18 injection (18F-NaF) — was developed in 2009 and received its drug permit in February.
The 18F-NaF is already recognized by the US Food and Drug Administration and offers higher precision (about 12 percent) than Tc-99m MDP for bone scans, Wang said, but as the cost is about six times that of Tc-99m MDP, it is only used in individual cases as an additional diagnosis method and therapy guide when needed.
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