In the 1970s, the basis for the positron imaging in Finland was established in Turku when the first cyclotron was installed. The initial efforts aimed to develop targets for isotope production. The first tracers produced were 11-C-labelled ethanol and 81-Rb/81m-Kr generator.
In collaboration with the University of Wisconsin high pressure targetry systems for fluorine chemistry were installed, thus increasing the yield and allowing Turku to produce 18-FDG as one of the first laboratories in Europe. To produce high specific activity [18F]F2 for synthesis of tracers for PET, a special excitation method via an electric discharge was developed. These inventions have had a significant impact on further development in cyclotron targetry and radiochemistry.
The cyclotron-PET international community was small. The core of the society was gathered together in Turku in 1977 to draw guidelines how cyclotrons ought to be used in medicine. Since then every third year a “Medical Application of Cyclotrons” symposium, more recently known as Turku PET Symposium has been held in Turku, thus serving bi-directional communication.
The eighties provided the breakthrough of radiochemistry in Turku. Number of different tracers were used in the studies in animals and humans.
In 1988 the first genuine whole body PET scanner (ECAT CTI-931) was purchased. The scientific PET efforts were established in the nineties and the activities and productivity boosted rapidly. Clinical problems like degenerative neurological disorders, cancer, diabetes, coronary heart disease, psychiatric disorders, foetal asphyxia and certain rare inherited diseases were investigated.
In addition to the accelerator at Åbo Akademi used for 11-C and 18-F production, a small cyclotron for 15-O production was installed in 1992 (CYCLONE 3, Ion Beam Application, Belgium). The second PET scanner was installed (GE Advance) in 1996 further increasing the imaging capacity of the Centre.
In 1996 the Turku PET Centre established a national status from the Ministry of Education. Together with the increased funding and rapidly enhanced research activities and research contracts with industry, the resources for hiring more staff and to attach clinical investigators were strikingly increased. Close collaboration had been established with laboratories in Uppsala, Stockholm, Copenhagen, London, Orsay, Dresden, St. Petersburg, Brookhaven, Michigan, Tohoku and Akita.
The imaging research activities in Turku have been mainly concentrated on positron studies although in many of the projects both positron and conventional nuclear medicine imaging as well as ultrasound, magnetic resonance imaging and x-ray computed tomography techniques have been applied. The number of doctoral theses produced from the PET Centre is over 100 and the number of scientific papers is nearly 2000, mostly in high quality peer-reviewed journals (more complete list of publications at: Publications).