RESEARCH CENTER. Officials of the Department of Science and Technology lead the groundbreaking ceremony for the establishment a new facility that will offer lower costs of cancer diagnosis and treatment in this undated photo. The Nuclear Medicine Research and Innovation Center aims to decrease the cost of cancer diagnosis and treatment in the Philippines. (Photo courtesy of PNRI Director Carlo Arcilla)

MANILA – The Nuclear Medicine Research and Innovation Center that will be constructed in Quezon City will help lower the cost of cancer diagnosis and treatment, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Fortunato de la Peña said on Monday.

"In the Philippines, cancer is one of the top non-communicable killers with a mortality rate of 60 percent," he said during the groundbreaking ceremony, noting that nuclear medicine is crucial in combating cancer.

The facility aims to decrease the cost of cancer diagnosis and treatment in the Philippines, as this would make the cyclotron and Positron Emission Tomography or PET scanners available.

"Cyclotrons produce important radiopharmaceuticals which are used for PET-CT scans. Currently, there are only three operational cyclotrons in the country, and all of them are located in Metro Manila. Some cyclotron facilities are being constructed in the Visayas and Mindanao," he said.

PET, on the other hand, is integral in the diagnostic algorithm in oncology, such as cancer staging and restaging, specifically in lung, gastrointestinal, breast, malignant melanoma, head and neck, and other cancers. It is also being used in other fields such as neurology and immunology.

De la Peña said a scan normally costs about PHP70,000 to PHP100,000.

"We can see the need to reduce the cost of scanning to make it affordable for the wider public," he said.

The facility to be built inside the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) compound, will contribute in providing quality nuclear imaging service, de la Peña said.

"(This will be) the fourth one with cyclotrons, although two are in the process of being installed in Cebu. We studied the costs and we project PNRI cyclotron will be roughly half the costs in hospitals," PNRI Director Carlo Arcilla told the Philippine News Agency.

Meanwhile, de la Peña said the center will also become a training hub on PET radiopharmaceutical production and applications not only in the country, but also in Southeast Asia.

"I am confident that our experts who will serve as mentors will come up with excellent and doable programs to build up a pool of nuclear medicine experts and practitioners in the country," he said. (PNA)