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With IAEA Support, African Professionals Learn How to Deploy the Latest Radiopharmacy Technologies


Participants at the regional training course during the hands-on element of the capacity building event. (Photo: CNESTEN)

Recent developments in the field of radiopharmaceutical sciences and technical advances in radiopharmaceutical production have made it necessary for healthcare institutions around the world to update the skills of their existing radiopharmacy staff. Within the framework of an ongoing technical cooperation project[1], and with the support of the Government of Morocco, the IAEA held a two-week, train-the-trainers event from 8 to 19 April to enhance the capacities of professionals in Africa in the production and quality-control radiopharmaceuticals for use in Positron Emission Tomography (PET) procedures.

Hosted by Morocco’s National Centre for Energy Sciences and Nuclear Techniques (CNESTEN), the course equipped 16 trainers from eight countries with a comprehensive understanding of the latest advances in the production of short-lived PET radiopharmaceuticals, including the implementation of ‘good manufacturing practices’ (GMP), the development of standard operating procedures (SOPs) and the elaboration of product specifications.

In the last decade, positron emission tomography (PET) has emerged to become one of the most accurate and informative imaging techniques available to healthcare professionals. Unlike computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), PET scans can capture metabolic changes at the cellular level in tissue or internal organs. Due to the short half-lives of the most commonly used PET radionuclides, these radiopharmaceuticals are injected into patients almost immediately after their production. As a result, in order to ensure the safety of patients, PET radiopharmaceuticals must be subjected to the most rigorous measures of quality assurance.

“Improving the use of nuclear techniques in the production and administration of radiopharmaceuticals is one of the identified development priorities in the use of nuclear techniques in Africa. The IAEA is devoting resources to support African governments in addressing this need,” said Shaukat Abdulrazak, Director of the Technical Cooperation Division for Africa. “This includes assistance to Member States to improve the capabilities of qualified radiopharmacists, at the senior staff level, to ensure production and availability of the safe and specified quality radiopharmaceuticals.”

A trainee at the regional training course during the hands-on session of the capacity building event. (Photo: CNESTEN)

PET radiopharmaceuticals need to be released and administered to patients very soon after their production, even before completing all quality-testing. This rapid turnaround time means that strict adherence to quality assurance procedures is essential at every stage of radiopharmaceutical production. To ensure that the relevant standards are well-understood across the production chain, the capacity building course was designed using the ‘train-the-trainer’ model: Participants not only learned about the newest technical developments related to production, but also learned how to organize training events themselves and improved their presentation and communication skills, through group discussions, for the benefit of peers and colleagues in their home countries. 

“Because radiopharmaceuticals are essentially injectable, assurance is needed that they are safe for patient use,” explained Rayana Anthony, a chemical technologist at the iThemba Labs in Cape Town and a course participant. “Therefore reliable, fast and efficient quality control is specifically important for PET radiopharmaceuticals.”

“Having limited exposure to the end-use of the radiopharmaceuticals we produce, I appreciated the visit to the PET facility where we learned about the clinical use of PET radiopharmaceuticals,” Ms Anthony continued. “The knowledge gained from this Regional Training Course will be used to assist in the improvement of procedures to ensure the consistent and efficient production of high-quality radiopharmaceutical products.” 

[1] RAF6054, ‘Strengthening and Improving Radiopharmacy Services (AFRA)’

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