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Construction of a “state-of-the-art” laboratory in Vancouver to fight against cancer

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A cyclotron on the campus of the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver.

Radio-Canada

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Construction of a new cyclotron and radiopharmacy laboratory is underway on the University of British Columbia campus in Vancouver to fight cancer.

This “state-of-the-art” laboratory, according to the province, will increase, starting in 2026, the production of clinical radiotracers, radioactive isotopes used in medical imaging to detect and monitor cancers.

According to Health Minister Adrian Dix, one in two British Columbians will face cancer in their lifetime, and most residents will know someone who is affected by the disease.

By 2034, we will go from 30,000 cancer diagnoses per year to 44,000 per year […] an almost 50% increase in 10 years […] in British Columbia. […] We must increase our capacity and the quality of care of BC Cancer and health authorities.

A quote from Adrian Dix, Minister of Health of British Columbia

These forecasts require British Columbia to do more to improve the quality of care, says the minister. That's why the province is investing $21 million in the new lab, to improve access to PET/CT scanners, and $11 million for advanced research at the Canadian TRIUMF Particle Acceleration Center . This investment is part of the province's 10-year cancer plan.

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For its part, the BC Cancer Foundation is providing $3.5 million to support capital investments and $15 million to fund research.

Damien Contandriopoulos, professor at the School of Nursing at the University of Victoria, considers this investment important for research and a good thing to do in the medium term. However, he considers that the announcement does not change anything for patients who will need short-term care.

The main thing that makes the difference for the patient is not so much the technology initially, it is a series of delays. So, when you don't have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, the first step is to meet a health professional who will listen, make the right decisions, refer people to specialists, retrieve test results.

A quote from Damien Contandriopoulos, professor at the School of Nursing, University of Victoria

The indicators in terms of waiting are all bad, and it's dangerous for the population, adds the professor.

Adrian Dix acknowledged, during the press conference, that the province was facing difficulties which led, for example, to sending patients abroad, while adding: Our results in cancer are among the best worldwide in British Columbia.

From April to December 2023, the number of patients receiving chemotherapy increased by 11% in one year, certainly a record in the last 15 years, according to the minister.

For Adrian Dix, care must be brought closer to communities. PET/CT scanners provide 16,000 CT scans per year, and once the new cyclotron comes into operation, it should be possible to perform 41,000 per year. On several occasions, Adrian Dix spoke of residents in Victoria who thanked him for the arrival of a PET/CT scanner in the capital.

Don Wilson, medical director of the functional imaging program at BC Cancer, says that to date, there are four PET/CT scanners in Kelowna, Vancouver and Victoria.

Nigel Smith, executive director of TRIUMF, notes that there are currently six cyclotrons on the UBC campus. This new investment will have a significant impact, he said, and should put British Columbia at the forefront of the country's nuclear medicine ecosystem. He hopes it will also lead to the development of new cancer therapies.

Dr. François Bénard, senior managing director of research at BC Cancer, says that it will also be about training the next generation of researchers.

With information from Catherine Dib

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