Nuclear medicine in our country boasts quite a long history. Russia is a nuclear state with an extensive experience in the use of nuclear technologies in different fields. In 1954, the world’s first nuclear power station was put into operation in the town of Obninsk, near Moscow. The development of nuclear technologies in the late 1940ies - early 1950ies became the basis for the appearance of a new field of medicine, nuclear medicine, including the use of radionuclides for diagnostics and treatment. In 1958, Obninsk also saw the creation of the Institute of Medical Radiology of the Academy of Medical Sciences of the USSR. In the Cold War years, the nuclear industry was intensively used for military purposes. Up to the 1970ies the level of development of the nuclear medicine of Russia matched that of the USA, Japan and the developed European countries. Emphasis was also laid on the use of ionized radiation in research, industry, agriculture, medicine. Up to 1990, Russia accounted for up to 20% of worldwide experience in proton therapy. The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster dealt a major blow to the development of nuclear industry in our country. Even greater problems emerged after the breakup of the USSR and because of the painful restructuring of the economy and a series of different crises. By the early 21stcentury, Russia had been lagging most developed nations both in terms of the equipment quality and in the field of radiopharmaceutical drugs. Currently in Russia, it is almost impossible to perform hadron therapy.
Although about 50 thousand Russians are in need of nuclear medicine every year, the country has but two centres that can offer radio therapeutic treatment for patients with the diseases of thyroid gland, with one of these operating in Obninsk.
However, nuclear medicine has now entered another period of the Renaissance in Russia. We are witnessing a rapidly resurging interest in the use of nuclear technology in various fields of science and technology, above all in medicine.
A fresh impetus to this trend was given in 2010, following a meeting of the Presidential Modernization and Technological Development Commission in Obninsk, where nuclear medicine was singled out as a priority. The then President of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, visited the MRRC RAMS as part of the Commission. The Head of State was briefed on some modern methods of radiation therapy, including neutron therapy. It was then that Obninsk researchers put forward their vision of a nuclear medicine center, based on radiotherapy methods, including the use of hadrons, specifically protons, neutrons, and carbon ions as well as the use of radiopharmaceuticals for diagnosis and treatment, especially cancer. These views were taken into account when decisions were made to set up the country's three nuclear medicine centers, namely in Dimitrovgrad, Obninsk and Tomsk. It was then that President D. Medvedev signed a decree providing for the creation of a powerful state research center of nuclear medicine on the basis of the scientific radiological center in Obninsk. An impressive 7.5 billion rubles were allocated for this purpose.
The Government is not ignoring the problem by investing heavily in the modernization of the industry. Visits by senior Russian leaders, including the President of the Russian Federation, to MRRC and other federal centers signal the seriousness and possible oncoming positive changes. A program has been launched to set up regional centers of nuclear medicine.
Obninsk is a unique city to solve problems relating to the development and organization of production of radiopharmaceuticals for diagnosis and treatment. The town hosts more than a dozen leading Russian agencies, engaged in both the production of medical isotopes and radiopharmaceuticals, and their clinical applications. These include, among others, the RF SRC Branch of the L. Karpov Physical and Chemical Institute; A. Leypunsky Institute for Physics and Power Engineering; A. Tsyb Medical Radiological Research Center, branch of FSBI National Medical Research Radiological Center of the Ministry of Health of Russia. The centres in question are unique scientific research institutions with a full range of required equipment and experts for design, radio-biological experiments, pre-clinical and clinical trials of radiopharmaceuticals, industrial organization of their release. The efforts by the researchers of the scientific institutions aim at the creation and organization of industrial production of a wide range of isotopes and radiopharmaceuticals for the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases, as well as the introduction of technologies for their use in clinical practice.
Furthermore, there is a number of small innovative companies to manufacture biologically active additives, substances and finished dosage forms («Mir-Pharm», «Bion», «Bioflavon», «Medbiopharm», «Gelenpol», and several others),many of which have international GMP certificate; There is also a plant of the Serbian concern «Hemofarm» to produce finished dosage forms.
A.Tsyb Medical Radiological Research Center has been reorganized by the Russian Ministry of Health and made part of the Joint National Center and has thus obtained fresh prospects for development, especially in dealing with the fight against cancer problems. Currently, the Department of Radionuclide Therapy of A. Tsyb Medical Radiological Research Center is one of the world's largest clinical facilities in terms of the use of radionuclides. Up to 70 patients receive radionuclide therapy here every week, which is more than 2,600 patients per year!
The reorganization of large internationally recognized authoritative institutions made it possible to combine research and clinical potential, providing domestic medicine with a broader scope of general problems, with an ability to plan fundamental research and clinical development, just as to exchange ideas, knowledge and experience more easily and efficiently.
As part of the joint centre, A. Tsyb MRRC has launched large-scale modernization. Our patients can see how we have improved the level and quality of scientific and medical components in the Centre clinic. Today, a new generation of equipment is coming to replace the outdated technology. We have been using conformal radiation therapy on increasingly greater scale, the therapy that unlike traditional radiation is based on the extensive treatment planning: impact on tumor conducted with minimal impact on the surrounding normal tissue. Hence, the main effect: a good result with a low probability of complications.
Of course, many are worried about prospects for the creation of a Nuclear Medicine Center based on A. Tsyb MRRC, the idea that we have promoted all along. Today we can say with confidence - it will be opened as part of a single center. We have already started efforts to perform the development and clinical introduction of new high-performance hadrons methods of diagnosis and therapy, to create a new generation of radiopharmaceuticals, to improve dosimetry methods for external and internal exposure. There are also plans to set up, jointly with the JSC Proton (Protvino), a modern complex on the basis of the proton accelerator.
Modern medicine requires fresh approaches, and since Russia has a sufficient number of experts, it is necessary to integrate at an early date all areas of nuclear medicine in the country, just as to think about ways to make this industry develop more energetically in the country. There is also a very good export potential for a variety of radiopharmaceuticals.