By Nancy Dahlberg
The Miami Herald.
With her two daughters playing and singing together at a desk off to the side, Carmen I. Bigles explains what motivates her to juggle two large healthcare ventures at the same time.
“The reason I do it is right over there — those two little girls,” Bigles said in her makeshift office in a construction trailer as workers were building the Caribbean Radiation Oncology Center in Doral.
She has co-founded the center for advanced oncological radiation technology with her husband and “best friend,” Dr. Pedro A. Serrano-Ojeda, a radiation oncologist. The state-of-the-art Doral center, set to open in the second quarter of this year, is the second center; the first site opened in Bayamón, Puerto Rico in 2007. “It’s a work of love with a mission to cure,” she said.
With a growing company to run, her husband practicing medicine half the week at their clinic in Puerto Rico, and an 8- and 10-year-old to raise, Bigles doesn’t need another challenge. But in 2009, a big one came onto her radar.
Mo-99 is the parent isotope of Technetium-99, which is used in 80 percent of nuclear medicine procedures worldwide. Globally, only a small number of facilities have the capacity for the commercial production of radioisotopes. Yet the U.S., the largest market for medical radioisotopes, has no domestic supply and in turn relies on imports from Europe and elsewhere.
Essential to nuclear medicine, radioisotopes are applied in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the brain, heart, lung, liver, among many others. Having a half-life of only 66 hours after production, Mo-99 cannot be stockpiled and presents unique distribution challenges when imported into the U.S.
In recent years, Mo-99 shortages deprived patients of lifesaving diagnostics and treatment. And time is of the essence: Many reactors around the world are aging and set to go offline by 2016.