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What is a Radiopharmaceutical?

A radiopharmaceutical is a substance which, by their physico-chemical characteristics, can be used for diagnosis or treatment in Nuclear Medicine.

It consists of a chemical vector (with pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics) which coordinates a radioactive isotope; depending on the physical properties of this isotope (mainly the type of radiation emitted), the radiopharmaceutical will have applicability in diagnosis (γ or β + emitters) or therapeutic (β- or α).


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What is a Radiopharmaceutical?

How to produce Radiopharmaceuticals?

Radiopharmaceuticals can be produced in nuclear reactor (eg. 99Mo, 131) or cyclotron (eg. 123I, 18F-DG). 

There are other methods of producing radiopharmaceuticals, such as generating systems useful in hospital radiopharmacies.

Cyclotron Production of Radiopharmaceuticals

The cyclotron is essentially a vacuum chamber in which, by means of a magnetic field parallel to itself (which is responsible for deflecting ions) and a system that generates an electric field elementary particles can be accelerated to very high energies. These particles will interact with targets where nuclear reactions take place that lead to obtaining radioactive isotopes and particle beams with use in medicine. 

The great potential for the production of radiopharmaceuticals cyclotron stand out, for example, as follows:

Target Material

Nuclear reaction


Produced isotope


Time Semi-Life




(16MeV p / 8 MeV d)

~ 2 GBq / μA sat


99,9 % β+

122,24 s



(8 MeV p)

H2O ultrapure


~ 1 GBq / μA sat (10 MeV)



9,96 m


H20 + Etanol


N2 + O2


~ 2 GBq / μA sat (10 MeV)


99,8 % β+

20,3 m

Cell Proliferation

N2 + H2




~ 2 GBq / μA sat (10 MeV)


96,9 % β+

109,77 m



Cyclotron Types

There are different types of Cyclotron depending on the type of particles used and the energy that can accelerate them. The dimensions of the various cyclotron and construction needs of the units where they will insert will thus be different and may be optimized to better serve their needs.

The type of cyclotron chosen must take into account the objective of production:

Which isotopes do you want to produce?

Activity to get from the produced isotopes?

What amount of isotopes do you require regarding the number of exams you estimate to accomplish? 


This means that each unit can choose the solution that best suit your production needs with the most cost-effective possible relationship. 

Cyclotron single dose

You can choose to install a smaller cyclotron (micro-cyclotron), with less construction demands and less complex daily operation. The cyclotron produces a dose at a time, according to the number of exams that must be carried out in each day. The isotope produced by this type of cyclotron is essentially 18F-DG used in most of the exams currently performed in Nuclear Medicine.


Cyclotron and commercial potential 

If you opt for a larger cyclotron you will have a high potential not only scientific and clinical, but also commercial. 
With the proximity of the cyclotron to the PET / CT device it can be produced isotopes with very short half-decay time that otherwise are impossible to use.
In addition, the unit can choose to produce radiopharmaceutical widely used, and whose half-decay allows its use in other systems (eg. 18F-DG), which covers a very interesting commercial potential. 

<b>Cyclotron Production of Radiopharmaceuticals</b>

Generating Systems of Radiopharmaceuticals

The generator systems of radiopharmaceuticals based on the radioisotope decay of a father (with higher half-decay) for a child radioisotope with shorter half-disintegration.

These generators are simple equipment and in most cases economically feasible and are therefore widely used in hospital radiopharmacies to obtain radiopharmaceuticals in situ.


The most widely used system is the 99 Mo / 99m Tc (for labelling of most radiopharmaceuticals used in conventional nuclear medicine), but there are others available on the market such as 68Ge / 68Ga (mainly used for labeling peptides used to study neuroendocrine tumors with PET / CT) or 82Sr / 82Rb (for studies of cardiac perfusion PET / CT), among others.


The unit where the cyclotron will be installed should be carefully planned so as to be guaranteed all construction and logistics needs, meeting all standards of good laboratory, pharmaceutical and clinical practice.

Multidisciplinary Team

A Radiopharmaceuticals production unit with Cyclotron must have an experienced team of physicists, radiopharmacists and technicians.

Radiological Protection and Safety

The protection and radiation safety in a Cyclotron site are critical. Apart from gamma radiation, there is also the issue of neutron radiation that must be safeguarded.

Everything can be easily overcome with a shield project against radiation well planned and executed with constant monitoring by a team of qualified medical physics.

From the bunker to the radiopharmacy, through the circulation of radiopharmaceuticals, HVAC system, extraction system, among others, a Cyclotron site should be carefully planned in accordance with the laws of the country and international guidelines.


The research, in particular in the field of production of new radiopharmaceuticals, is a rapidly expanding area in medicine. A unit with Cyclotron will always be at the forefront of this possibility.

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