Nuclear medicine expert Dr. Thomas Neil Pascual has highlighted advancements in the Philippines’ nuclear medicine technology, which could lead to more affordable diagnosis and treatment of various non-communicable diseases, including cancer and dementia.
Dr. Pascual is a current S&T Fellow at the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (DOST-PNRI) and a former Balik Scientist, the program which invites overseas Filipino scientists to return and serve the country.
Cancer is a significant health concern in the Philippines, with 189 of every 100,000 Filipinos affected by the disease in 2021, resulting in 96 cancer deaths every day (University of the Philippines Institute of Human Genetics – National Institutes of Health study). The high cost of diagnostic scans, which can reach up to P100,000 per scan, has limited access to life-saving cancer staging and diagnostic procedures for many patients.
To address this issue, the DOST-PNRI has prioritized research and development (R&D) of radiopharmaceuticals—drugs containing radioactive isotopes that can be used for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. The Nuclear Medicine Research and Innovation Centre (NMRIC) is supporting this effort by developing a range of radioactive tracers for cancer management and other diseases such as dementia and heart disease.
Upon completion, the NMRIC will house a medical cyclotron and a positron emission tomography–computed tomography (PET-CT) imaging center, making cancer detection, treatment, and management more accessible and affordable for Filipinos. The facility will also serve as a training hub for those interested in PET radiochemistry and radiopharmaceutical production.
Dr. Pascual emphasized that the Centre will be open to everyone, with an evaluation process in place to determine the appropriate usage of the technology. The groundbreaking ceremony for the Centre took place last year, and its completion will significantly improve access to early detection, treatment, and management of cancer and other diseases for all Filipinos, especially those who are less fortunate.
Nuclear technology in the Philippines has also been used in agriculture and has produced an internationally recognized food supplement.
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