DoST-PNRI to establish cancer staging center in QC

Published October 29, 2020, 1:17 PM

by Dhel Nazario

A cancer staging center that will provide cheaper services is set to be established by the  Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute in Quezon City.


The proposed Center for Nuclear Medicine Research and Development in Diliman will be a major center for diagnosing cancer and other non-communicable diseases. Among its facilities will be a medical cyclotron and several Positron Emission Tomography-Computed Tomography scanners.

A cyclotron in tandem with PET-CT scanning can provide better imaging and are far more reliable for detecting cancer than conventional CT scans MRI, ultrasound, or blood testing.

“Every year, 70,000 people die from cancer, and the best way to diagnose them early is through PET-CT scans,” said PNRI Director Carlo Arcilla.

“While early diagnosis is key to getting better and timely treatment, the sheer expense is discouraging – sometimes beyond the reach – for many Filipinos. Cancer, diabetes, heart, and lung diseases together make up the top causes of annual deaths in the Philippines,” DoST-PNRI said.

According to the agency, PET-CT scanning currently costs around P40,000 to P60,000, compared to around P20 to 25,000 aimed by the proposed nuclear medicine facility.  As the Philippines only has four cyclotron facilities and 11 PET-CT scanners, and with most of these facilities located in Metro Manila, lowering the cost of PET-CT scans remains quite a hurdle for the medical sector.

Dr. Thomas Neil Pascual, an international expert on nuclear medicine and DoST Balik Scientist spearheading the project, said that government investment in cyclotron and imaging facilities will go a long way in making the procedure more available across the country. 

“We really have few operational medical cyclotrons in the country, which limits our access in terms of cost and technology,” said Pascual.

Cyclotrons produce important radiopharmaceuticals such as Fluorine-18 which are used for PET-CT scans. When taken in by the patient, these special drugs emit low doses of radiation which are otherwise not harmful.  
“Radiation is used to provide images of organs such as the brain, lungs, kidneys, liver, and thyroid. These images are in turn studied by doctors to find any tell-tale signs of particular diseases like cancer,” DoST-PNRI said.

Apart from serving as a diagnostic center, the proposed facility will also serve as a training hub for current and aspiring nuclear medicine practitioners in the country.

PNRI aims to complete the center in at least two years. With these new facilities, it believes it will help drag down the costs in a life-saving effort to bring among the most advanced medical technologies closer to Juan and Juana dela Cruz.