Ministers Jan Jambon and Hilde Crevits praise research into nuclear medicine at SCK•CEN


On Monday 2 December, Jan Jambon, Minister-President of the Flemish government, and Hilde Crevits, Vice Minister-President, visited the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre (SCK•CEN) in Mol. They were given a comprehensive explanation on large-scale research projects in the field of nuclear medicine with which the research centre hopes to step up the fight against cancer. “These efforts can make a difference”, states Jan Jambon, Flemish Minister-President, after the visit.

With each of its projects, SCK•CEN tries to build bridges between the research community, the business world and society. “Our research acts as a catalyst for innovation in various sectors, among which the medical sector”, notes Eric van Walle, Director-General of SCK•CEN. Several projects run by the Centre will contribute to the development of innovative cancer treatments. The research centre harbours the ambition of fighting against specific cancer cells by targeting them and, in doing so, making treatment for cancer patients more effective.

In the so-called targeted radionuclide therapy, a molecule brings a radioactive isotope to the cancer cells. “As soon as the molecule attaches itself to the cell, the radioisotope can irradiate the cancer cell. The goal is to reach the cell’s DNA and disrupt it. The tumour then shrinks and eventually dies”, explains Dennis Elema, manager of one of the research lines at SCK•CEN.

MINERVA - MYRRHA’s particle accelerator up to 100 MeV - will play a crucial role in this. “We aim to commission MINERVA in 2027 and to begin developing and producing innovative medical radioisotopes”, states Hamid Aït Abderrahim, Deputy Director-General at SCK•CEN and Director of the MYRRHA project.

Support from the authorities
Not only does the federal government support the realisation of the MYRRHA research infrastructure, but Flanders also included the project in its 2019-2024 governmental agreement. “Flanders offers enough support to the research part of the MYRRHA project to speed up the applications and valorization of the research. Developing such technology will allow us to make a difference worldwide”, points out Jan Jambon, Minister-President of the Flemish government.

Site visit
Today, on Monday 2 December 2019, the Minister-President Jan Jambon and Vice Minister-President Hilde Crevits got to witness the efforts of SCK•CEN in the field of nuclear medicine. “I am impressed by the research that is performed at SCK•CEN”, states Hilde Crevits, Flemish Minister for Economy, Innovation, Employment, Social economy and Agriculture. “SCK•CEN proves that innovation helps our society thrive across many different sectors. Through production and innovation, SCK•CEN contributes greatly to the fight against cancer and to medical imaging. In the meantime, the MYRRHA project helps reducing the amount of nuclear waste. The use of radiation for concrete applications must go hand in hand with a high-quality protection of people and environment.”

The Ministers were welcomed by Derrick Gosselin (Chairman of the Board of Governors of SCK•CEN), Eric van Walle (Director-General of SCK•CEN), Hamid Aït Abderrahim (Deputy Director-General of SCK•CEN and Director of the MYRRHA project) and Dennis Elema (Programme Manager at SCK•CEN). Enthusiastic young scientists also had the opportunity to speak to the Ministers.