The Belgian historical expertise in medical applications of ionising radiation
Belgium is a world leader in medical applications of ionising radiation. This leadership has been achieved thanks to the creativity and the innovations by hundreds of scientists, clinicians and engineers who built on the very strong foundations provided by the pioneers in the field.
A world leader inmedical applications of ionising radiation
At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century, Belgium being one of the richest countries per habitant in the world was very much oriented towards scientific discoveries and technological developments. As an example, in April 1896, only five months after the discovery of X-rays by Roentgen, the Belgian army had X-ray equipment installed to improve medical diagnosis.
In March 1896, Henri Becquerel discovered rays of unknown nature. Shortly afterwards, Marie and Pierre Curie would explain the origin of the rays and coin the term radioactivity.
Leg of Belgian soldier, 1896
Source: 100 years of radiology in Belgium, Belgian Museum of Radiology, ISBN 90-802575-1-6
Pierre and Marie Curie-Skłodowska, 1904
The discovery ofRadium
Marie Curie became a frequent visitor to Belgium, both for scientific reasons, e.g. the Solvay Conferences, and also because Belgium had the largest uranium reserves in the world thanks to the Shinkolobwe mine in Congo. Marie Curie extracted radium out of the uranium ore to supply radiotherapy services worldwide.
Treatment of Lupus by X-rays
Already in 1900, Prof. Jules De Nobele, of (R)UGent, was using X-rays to treat Lupus by X-rays and in 1904, Prof Adrien Bayet of ULBruxelles, initiated treatment by radium.
Jules De Nobele and Adrien Bayet (source: Wikipedia)
Marie and Irène Curie, Hoogstade, 1915
(Source: Roseline Debaillie)
A major producer of Radium fortherapeutic uses
From 1923 on, Belgium was the major producer of Radium for therapeutic uses in the world. That year, the Belgian Red Cross founded the Belgian Radium Institute and in 1931, the Sino-Belgian Radium Institute was created in Shanghai, now the Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center, the major cancer specialty hospital in China.
Sino-Belgian Radium Institute, 1931 (source: wikipedia)
First therapy with Sr-89, 1940-1941
Pioneerin the use of Strontium-89 for bone metastasis
Belgium, a worldleader inmedical isoptope supply, cyclotron-based applications and installations for proton therapy
BR2 reactor (Source: SCK CEN)
By 1975-1980, the entire value chain, from production of isotopes up to clinical research and practice was operational. Already in the 80’s, more than 100 nuclear medicine departments were active in the country.
Up to then, only reactor produced isotopes were routinely available in Belgium. The first Belgian cyclotron was built in 1947 at the university of Leuven/Louvain. As researcher with extensive experience in cyclotron technology, Yves Jongen went to work at Berkeley and upon his return created IBA in 1986.
Soon, all Belgian universities would be equipped with cyclotrons which would open the door to the introduction of Positron Emission Tomography, PET, mainly with F-18 (Fluor-18). By the year 2000, Belgium hosted the highest density per capita of nuclear medicine departments, cyclotrons and SPECT or PET cameras in the world.
Today, Belgium is worldleader in medical isoptope supply, cyclotron-based applications and installations for proton therapy.
Yves Jongen at IBA (Source: 2020-01-18 IBA)