Government, Qantas bring nuclear medicine to Perth

05/02/2021 - 15:00

Government research organisation ANSTO, Qantas and Perth Children’s Hospital have synced their operations to bring a dose of Iodine 123 from Japan to the hospital today.

Government, Qantas bring nuclear medicine to Perth
The dose arrived at Perth Children's Hospital today. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

Government research organisation ANSTO, Qantas Airways and Perth Children's Hospital have synced their operations to bring a dose of Iodine 123 from Japan to the hospital today.

Iodine 123 is a radioisotope used in medical imaging and diagnosis of specific cancers, including neuroblastoma.

The substance is usually imported on commercial flights from Japan but the lack of availability of reliable flights because of the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the normal supply chain.

It expires within 33 hours of manufacturing so it must be transported across countries quickly.

To ensure a patient at Perth Children's Hospital didn’t miss out on the imaging agent, ANSTO and Qantas worked together to line up production and a flight to Perth which landed today.

ANSTO general manager Ian Martin said the challenge with transporting nuclear medicine was that the products are radioactive and can decay quickly.

“Maximum radioactivity equals maximum effectiveness, so the focus is on ensuring the product reaches hospitals and clinics as soon as possible,” Mr Martin said.

“We are working hard to ensure a supply of I-123 MIBG to centres responsible for the management of children with neuroblastoma.” 

Iodine 123 has a half-life of 13 hours, which means that the levels of radioactivity halves every 13 hours. 

Perth Children's Hospital nuclear medicine consultant Elizabeth Thomas said extraordinary work behind the scenes had been carried out to make this a reality.

“Providing the highest-levels of care and treatment for those affected by rare childhood cancers is our absolute priority, so we’re delighted that through our collaborative efforts, we’re able to continue to provide this service here in Perth despite the huge challenges faced globally with the pandemic,” she said.

Neuroblastoma Australia president and co-founder Lucy Jones said the effort to transport the medicine would be appreciated by the patients who need regular scans to monitor their disease.

She said treatments for the disease had seen relatively little progress after the last decade due to funding and said people could help by getting involved in the organisation’s #2littlecampagin.

It is hoped ANSTO, Qantas, the Australian Embassy in Japan and the federal government can continue working together to supply Perth Children’s Hospital with the radioactive substance when it needs it.

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