Cyclotron and Radiochemistry Facility

Cyclotron and Radiochemistry Facility

Radiochemistry at the PET Unit relies on an IBA Cyclone 18/9 cyclotron which was installed some three decades ago but is still perfectly functional, due to multiple upgrades over the years and, above all, to the exceptional expertise of the team operating it.

Our radiochemistry facilities are currently undergoing significant renovations in the course of a costly and complex program, which we hope to complete over the next few years. In the meantime, the experience and advanced knowledge provided by our remarkable staff allow us to produce a larger variety of advanced radiopharmaceuticals than most research or clinical centers in the world.

The cyclotron operates under guidelines set out by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) and as per CNSC regulations we are informing the public that The Neuro is equipped with a cyclotron facility.


In 1981, the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro, became the first medical institution in Canada to be equipped with its own isotope production facility: THE CYCLOTRON.The move to include such a facility within its walls was somewhat revolutionary at the time. By producing its own radioactive tracers used for Positron Emission Tomography (PET) imaging, The Neuro enabled researchers to uncover the mysteries of how the brain works and clinicians to increase the speed and accuracy of patients’ diagnosis and treatments.

Today, medical cyclotrons are found in cities across the country and isotopes are used around the world for research, and cancer diagnosis and treatment.

About The Facility

The Cyclotron and Radiochemistry Facility is specifically designed to enable researchers and staff to work safely with radioactive materials. Much of the work is done using remote systems through shielded chambers called ‘hot cells.’ All of the radioisotopes are intended for use in biomedical imaging or clinical research, hence the laboratory is regularly visited by Health Canada inspectors for quality and safety control purposes.

Cyclotron FAQ

What is a Cyclotron?

A cyclotron is a particle accelerator used to produce medical isotopes needed for PET scans. It uses a combination of high-powered magnets and alternating voltage to convert stable atoms into radioactive isotopes. This process involves spinning charged particles in ever-expanding circles until they strike a target. The cyclotron’s magnets pull the charged particles in a circular motion, while the alternating current charges particles with energy each time they cross a threshold down the middle of the circular path. When the particle beam interacts with the stable atom in the target, a nuclear reaction occurs creating radioactive isotopes.

What are isotopes used for? 

Tiny doses of radioactive isotopes are injected into patients or research study subjects who undergo Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scans. The isotopes act as tracers that the scanner detects in the body. For clinical use, the scanner can diagnose or detect cancerous growths, brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and coronary heart disease. Visualization of cancer then allows physicians to stage the cancer and plan treatment. At The Neuro isotopes are used mainly for research protocols such as drug testing or investigating functions and diseases of the nervous system.

Are there any risks from working or living near the facility?

Designed and operated to meet or exceed the highest federal safety standards, the facility is regulated by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and Health Canada, and conforms to The Neuro’s health and safety policies.

Access to the cyclotron and the associated laboratories is tightly controlled through a variety of safeguards. Specialized air and waste handling systems guard against accidental releases of radioisotopes outside the facility. Lab work with radioisotopes takes place in sealed and shielded hot cells designed to contain spills. Because the isotopes produced in the facility are designed to be injected into humans, they do not last very long and decay to negligible amounts in a matter of hours.

What are the risks of being exposed to radioactive isotopes?

The risk for a member of the public to be accidentally exposed to medical isotopes is extremely low.

The main isotope for clinical use, fluorine 18, has a half-life of 110 minutes. For research, we mainly use Carbon 11 with a half-life of just 20 minutes. This means that radioactivity decays rapidly. The doses produced are designed to be safe for injection into patients and research study subjects.

The facility is designed so that radiation produced by the cyclotron is contained within the controlled areas that are accessible only to authorized personnel. Heavy shielding is incorporated into the building walls to keep radiation to normal background levels at all times outside the facility and to ensure that there are no radiation exposure risks to any workers, members of the public or the environment. Personnel working in the cyclotron unit, as well as all staff working with radioactive chemicals wear monitoring equipment (badges) that measure exposure to radioactivity. Badges are turned in and checked regularly. The packaging and transport of the radioactive substances for delivery to local hospitals is done safely in accordance with Transport Canada regulations for the transport of dangerous goods (TDG, class 7).

For more information on isotopes visit the Health Canada website.

Information Materials





PET Tracers

Please contact the Director of Cyclotron to inquire about the production of other tracers not featured in the list.

PET Neurotracers catalog (click to download PDF)




  Highly selective antagonist tracer for imaging the metabotropic glutamate receptor subtype 5 (mGluR5)

[11C]FLB 457

  For imaging D2 dopamine receptors in extrastriatal brain regions



  High-affinity ligand of the vesicular monoamine transporter (VMAT2)


  beta-Amyloid binding agent for imaging amyloid plaques


  Dopamine D2 receptor antagonist

[11C]SCH 23390


  Dopamine D1 receptor antagonist



  Imaging the synaptic vesicle glycoprotein 2A (SV2A) in the human brain.

[11C] Martinostat


  Selective binding to I/IIb HDAC enzymes. For use in Dementia and Addiction research.



  Serotonin 2A (5-HT2A) receptor agonist PET radioligands. Addiction research.
[11C]alpha-Methyl-L-Tryptophan   For serotonin synthesis


Acetamide, N-((2-(methoxy-11C)-phenyl)methyl)-N-(6-phenoxy-3-pyridinyl)-

  Ligand of the mitochondrial Translocator Protein (TSPO; formerly designated as the peripheral benzodiazepine receptor), found in activated microglia (inflammation marker). Shows less non-specific binding than 11C-PK 11195.

[11C]PK 11195

  Ligand of the mitochondrial Translocator Protein (TSPO), found in activated microglia (inflammation marker)


  Also a ligand of the mitochondrial Translocator Protein (TSPO), found in activated microglia (inflammation marker). Shows less non-specific binding than 11C-PK 11195, and is labelled with 18F, allowing for more widespread distribution.



  For imaging TSPO. A biomarker of the new generation for Neuroinflammation.


(S)-N-(1-allyl-2-pyrrolidinyl)methyl-5-(3-[18F]fluoropropyl)-2, 3-dimethoxybenzamide

  Dopamine D2 receptor antagonist with high affinity, allowing cortical D2r visualisation


  Ligand of the serotonin receptor 5-HT1A; agonist


  Ligand of the serotonin receptor 5-HT2A; agonist


(-)-(2R,3R)-trans-2-hydroxy-3-(4-phenylpiperidino)-5-(2-[18F ]fluoroethoxy)-1,2,3,4-tetralin


Radioligand of the vesicular acethylcoline transporter (VAChT). Still investigational (used in only models at this time)


  PET imaging agent for Tau


2-[(18)F]Fluoroethyl-choline ([(18)F]FECH) 

A tracer for the detection of prostate cancer


  A novel radiotracer for imaging choline metabolism in tumors


  Fluoromisonidazole for the detection of hypoxia



  F-18 tracer (version) of [11C]-UCB-J



  beta-Amyloid binding agent for imaging amyloid plaques


Ethyl 8-(18F)fluoranyl-5-methyl-6-oxo-4H-imidazo[1,5-a][1,4]benzodiazepine-3-carboxylate
  Ligand of the benzodiazepine receptor (cBZR) found on gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA-A) receptors


  Glucose analog



  2nd generation of tau tracers. Dementia research.


  2nd generation of tau tracers. Dementia research.


  2nd generation of tau tracers. Dementia research.


  2nd generation of tau tracers. Dementia research.



  PET ligand for the P2X7 ion channel
[15O]Water    [15O] water is used for measuring regional cerebral blood flow



Our  Cyclotron staff is supported in part by a generous donation from the Louise and Alan Edwards Foundation.

Dr Gassan Massarweh Director, Cyclotron and Radiochemistry
Dr Alexey Kostikov Research Faculty
Dean Jolly Systems Development Manager, Cyclotron
Monica Lacatus-Samoila Research Assistant
Marina Kostikov Research Assistant
Karen Ross Research Assistant

I-Huang, Tsai

Research Technician
Robert Hopewell Research Technician


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