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Sudeshna Pal, Hindustan Times
Kolkata, December 28, 2012
The diagnosis and treatment of cancer and cardiac diseases may soon become much cheaper.

By mid-2013, India will get its first facility to produce medical isotopes - substances crucial in nuclear medicine. A medical cyclotron project is to come up on the southern fringes of Kolkata, at Chak Garia. The construction is on way and the plant will be commissioned by 2014.

A medical isotope is a very small quantity of radioactive substance used in safe, cost-effective imaging and treatment of cancer. It is also helpful in treating cardiovascular disease. It effectively prevents re-clogging of arteries when used in conjunction with angioplasty.

"Currently, medical isotopes are imported from the UK, Israel and South Africa. Five milicurie of radioisotope - a single dose for a patient -- now costs around Rs. 15,000. This cost will go down almost by half," said Malay Kanti Das, head of the regional centre of Board of Radiation and Isotope Technology (BRIT), Kolkata.

Mainly, two types of radioisotopes are used in nuclear medicine - those emitting gamma rays and positrons.

There are facilities in the country to produce the positron-emitting isotope, said Dinesh Srivastava, director of Variable Cyclotron Energy Centre (VECC) at Salt Lake. The Kolkata project would produce both types, eliminating the need to import this expensive material.

The VECC is building the project in partnership with BRIT and the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE).