New equipment to better detect cancer expected in operation by 2015

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Pictured (from left) are: Health Minister Susan Sullivan; Vickie Kaminski, President and CEO of Eastern Health;  Dr. Peter Hollett, Clinical Chief, Nuclear Medicine at Eastern Health; and Dr. James Rourke, Dean of Medicine, Memorial University. — Photo by Barb Sweet/The Telegram

The province's first positron emission tomography-commuted tomography (PET/CT) scanner is expected to be in operation by 2015.

Construction on the building to house the scanner is expected to be tendered this fall and will take 18 months once underway.

The new addition to the Health Sciences Centre will cost $30 million and the total project — including equipment — will be $40 million. Work will begin in Aug. 1 to realign Clinch Crescent. The new facility will be behind the cancer centre. Also, the Janeway will get a new entrance.

The three-level building will have room for future expansion of the cancer centre.

It's expected some 1,200 scans will be done on the PET scanner each year, but it can handle 2,000.

The equipment is expected to allow better detection of cancer and clearer indications of treatment benefits.

It will be mostly used for cancer patients but has potential for cardiac and Alzheimer's cases.

Progress on the project is being announced this morning by Health Minister Susan Sullivan; Vickie Kaminski, President and CEO of Eastern Health;  Dr. Peter Hollett, Clinical Chief, Nuclear Medicine at Eastern Health; and Dr. James Rourke, Dean of Medicine, Memorial University.

“With the addition of a PET/CT scanner to Eastern Health’s Molecular Imaging Program, we are making an important and essential investment in the health of our residents,” Sullivan said.

“Our government is investing approximately $40 million to provide this new diagnostic testing, as well as to consolidate nuclear medicine services in one location at the Health Sciences Centre.”

A PET/CT scanner or positron emission and computerized tomography scanner is a vital diagnostic tool most commonly used to detect, assess and treat cancers. This technology is also used for the assessment of cardiac disease and diagnosis of some neurological disorders.

“The Molecular Imaging Program will provide our patients with access to leading-edge medical equipment that will enhance health care delivery in Newfoundland and Labrador,” Kaminski said.

“With the introduction of a PET/CT scanner, patients with certain illnesses will no longer have to travel outside the province to receive this specialized procedure.”

A contract to realign the road at the Health Sciences Centre was recently awarded to Triple A Excavating Ltd. This will be the first phase of development that will include the creation of a new entrance to the emergency department of the Janeway Children’s Health and Rehabilitation Centre and construction of a new facility to house the Molecular Imaging Program next to the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre.

“Operating our own PET/CT scanner within this province provides the people we serve with a better chance at fighting various chronic illnesses,” Hollett said.

“A PET/CT scan would be able to tell a physician whether their patient’s chemotherapy is working far in advance of any other imaging techniques, it will allow physicians to monitor blood flow in the heart more effectively and will provide a means to positively diagnose Alzheimer’s from other types of dementia, which is something we cannot currently do in this province.”

The Molecular Imaging Program will also provide Eastern Health and Memorial University with additional research and teaching opportunities and assist with recruitment efforts for physicians. Eastern Health will hold public information sessions in September on the establishment of the Molecular Imaging Program at the Health Sciences Centre. For more information, visit:

“The Molecular Imaging Facility provides remarkable opportunities for research, particularly in cancer diagnosis, obesity and brain trauma,” Rourke said.

“There are also educational opportunities for new or expanded programs in biomedical engineering and radiochemistry, particularly at the graduate level.”

Organizations: Health Sciences Centre, Eastern Health

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Recent comments

  • George Penney
    July 11, 2013 - 09:55

    This seems to be a very advanced and sophisticated piece of equipment. My hat is off to government for supporting this acquisition and for the facility change it requires. Such moves will go far to train, recruit and retain the best medical professionals. Incidents of cancer seem to be on the rise and moves by government to meet the new challenges are encouraging. Hope for the afflicted is very important.

    July 11, 2013 - 09:38

    To know whether chemotherapy is actually working is a wonderful thing. It's good to hear the technology will be coming to more people.