History

The University of Chicago was one of the first academically installed cyclotrons (1968).  That machine, pictured above, and the program it supported enjoyed a long and storied history in radiochemistry and instrumentation.  Investigators such as Katherine Lathrop, Paul Harper, Robert (Bob) Beck, and others provided a rich palette of research interests.   Most history of the early days of the Department of Radiology at the University of Chicago can be found at this link.

Katherine Lathrop

Katherine Lathrop, a member of the Manhattan Project, was a key member of the University of Chicago team that introduced 99mTc into clinical practice in the early 1960s as a radiotracer agent in nuclear medicine. This radioactive substance is now used tens of thousands of times a day in the United States and tens of millions of times a year worldwide in nuclear medicine scans designed to identify tumors or abnormal metabolism. Harper and Lathrop also developed the commercial method for producing 125I, another commonly used diagnostic radionuclide.  She passed away in 2005.

Paul Harper, a member of both the Department of Surgery and the Department of Radiology was a pioneer in the diagnostic and therapeutic uses of radiation and the development and testing of radiotracers in the early days of nuclear medicine. Harper and colleagues were among the first to investigate the medical of thallium to assess the heart muscle – another test in common use today. In the 1950s, Harper and colleagues invented techniques to deliver a controlled dose of radiation directly to tumors, such as coiling a thin tube around a cancerous pancreas and then filling the tube with radioactive iodine. They inserted 90Y pellets or 90Sr needles into pituitary glands for Parkinson’s disease. They implanted radioactive seeds around a malignant prostate gland, a technique that is now common. Harper also passed away in 2005.

Robert Beck

Robert (Bob) Beck was known for his fundamental role in developing the theoretical framework at the core of much of nuclear medicine and for bringing mathematical rigor to imaging systems, such as SPECT and PET scans, that rely on injection of radioactive agents that could be detected within the body by external sensors. He designed scanning devices for radionuclide imaging, optimized collimator design, and evaluated the trade-offs between spatial resolution and sensitivity. He also played key roles in creating the University of Chicago’s positron emission tomography (PET) facility, helping to build one of the first PET scanners in the Midwest in 1981. Beck passed away in 2008.

The CS-15 cyclotron was installed in 1968 and ran for 30 years. It was housed inside a vault in the sub-basement of the Frank McLean Institute. Radiochemistry was done on the floor above where there was a PET scanner. The CS-15 was decommissioned in 1997 due to changes in the DOE’s sponsored research focus. Renewed interest in early 2000’s to start a radiochemistry program around a new, state-of-the-art cyclotron.

For images of the new Cyclotron, view the Gallery.  To see how the Cyclotron was moved into it’s vault, view  Insertion of the Cyclotron video.

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