Plans set for introduction of Molecular Imaging Program
Eastern Health is getting a new PET… and it’s not the furry kind! Eastern Health has announced its plans to launch a Molecular Imaging Program that will introduce a positron emission tomography/computerized tomography (PET/CT) scanner to this province.
A PET/CT scanner, like the one purchased by Eastern Health. Photo courtesy of Phillips Medical.
Dr. Peter Hollett, Clinical Chief of Nuclear Medicine at Eastern Health and member of the Molecular Imaging Steering Committee, believes that the introduction of such a program will greatly improve health care in this province.
“Operating our own PET/CT scanner within this province provides the people we serve with a better chance at fighting various illnesses and experiencing more positive health outcomes.”
A PET/CT scanner is a vital diagnostic tool most commonly used to detect and assess and help determine treatment for a large number of cancers.
This technology is also used for the assessment and diagnosis of cardiac disease and some neurological disorders, including dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease and movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.
“A PET/CT scan would be able to tell a physician whether their patient’s chemotherapy is working far in advance of any other imaging techniques, it will allow physicians to monitor blood flow in the heart more effectively and will provide a means to positively diagnose Alzheimer’s disease from other types of dementia, which is something we could not previously do in this province,” added Peter.
Cyclotron to be introduced
In conjunction with the PET/CT scanner, Eastern Health will operate a cyclotron, a device used to create medical isotopes. Medical isotopes are used in PET/CT imaging, as well as some other diagnostic imaging procedures currently available through Eastern Health’s Nuclear Medicine Program.
Members of Molecular Imaging Steering Committee checking out a Cyclotron. Eastern Health later purchased this same model.
“Operating a cyclotron in close proximity to the PET/CT scanner will ensure the stable and timely supply of the medical isotopes needed to carry out the scanning process, which is crucial to providing a reliable and efficient Molecular Imaging Program,” said Peter.
As the medical isotope is made up of radioactive material, the regulatory processes for operating a cyclotron are extensive. There are two principal federal regulatory agencies involved – Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CSNC) and Health Canada. In addition, there will be numerous safety protocols in place to ensure that the radioactive material does not get released into the environment, including filtration systems within the air release system, lead walls and extensive radiation monitoring.
“We have no doubt that the processes outlined by the federal regulatory agencies, matched with the design of the facility and our organization’s commitment to quality and safety, will ensure that this cyclotron is operated safely, so that we can produce the medical isotopes needed to diagnose and treat man diseases,” added Peter.
Introducing Dr. Conor McGuire
While the program is still in the planning stages Eastern Health has already recruited one physician who will be influential in the development and operation of the Molecular Imaging Program, Dr. Conor McGuire. Dr. McGuire was recruited from the University of Alberta, where he held the position of Medical Director of the Molecular Imaging Program. Dr. McGuire was instrumental in the introduction of the Molecular Imaging Program at the University of Alberta.
“I loved my job at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton — it was my dream job, but my heart was always in Newfoundland. My wife, Carolyn, and I are both thrilled to be home with family, friends and our new grandson. I am also thankful to be part of a team that will introduce this state-of-the-art program that will greatly improve the health outcomes of many people in this province,” says Dr. McGuire.
Dr. McGuire grew up in Gander and Grand Falls, NL. After completing his first year of medical school at Memorial University, he was paralyzed in a driving accident. His fellow medical students and the local medical community were determined to support him in his recovery from the accident. As a result the first annual Monte Carlo Charity Gala was launched in 1977 to raise money to purchase a wheelchair lift for his family’s van to help Dr. McGuire get back in action. Since its initiation, the Monte Carlo Charity Gala has continued to grow, as the event attracts upwards to 1,000 people annually, raising over $250,000 for Newfoundland and Labrador charities. Dr. McGuire received his Doctor of Medicine in 1981, completed his radiology residency at MUN in 1987 and went on to further specialize in Nuclear Medicine at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario.
“After my spinal cord injury, I was given the opportunity to continue my vocation in medicine and was encouraged by virtually everybody at the medical school, in particular my fellow students, to do so. I believe that MUN and Newfoundland and Labrador is one of very few places that this could happen. I remain tremendously honored and grateful and am happy to be able to give something back after all these years.”
New facility being built
The tender for the construction of the new Molecular Imaging Facility was awarded to Pomerleau Inc. at a cost of $24,990,000.
This facility will see the consolidation of the existing Nuclear Medicine Services within Eastern Health at one site, contain innovative safety features, provide adequate treatment space to run the program, and include infrastructure for future expansion of the Cancer Care Program.
The Molecular Imaging Facility is designed to meet the requirements of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver level certification. LEED provides a means of anticipating the environmental impact of a building through aspects such as energy consumption and materials used to provide a more environmentally friendly building.
Construction work is ongoing to prepare for the new structure. In August 2013, work began to create a new entrance at the emergency department of the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre. This entrance was created by moving a section of Clinch Crescent between Mosdell and the Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism further north from its existing location. Pomerleau Inc. will begin constructing the new facility during summer 2014.
During the construction of the building, normal construction-related safeguards will be in place; however, due to the scale of the project, the public is asked to proceed with caution and to expect traffic delays on Clinch Crescent throughout the duration of this project.
Eastern Health is anticipating that the Molecular Imaging Program will be in full operation by 2016.
For more information about the program, please visit the Molecular Imaging Program website or check out the below video. ■
This story was written by Jackie O’Brien, media relations manager with Eastern Health.