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The Cancer Bomb



"Though born of war-time nuclear research, the cobalt bomb was in practice a ploughshare rather than a sword.... With its flair for trend-setting performance in medicine, Saskatchewan had led the way."
- C. Stuart Houston and Sylvia O. Fedoruk in A New Kind of Ray, 1995



The original Cobalt-60 Beam Therapy Unit, also known as the cobalt bomb, is on permanent display at the Saskatoon Western Development Museum (WDM). The Cancer Bomb, a permanent exhibit sponsored by PotashCorp, honours the 60th anniversary of the first successful treatment of cancer with this machine at University Hospital in Saskatoon.


Potash Corp Helping Nature ProvideUniversity of Saskatchewan

“As a local company with global reach, we felt it was important to help profile the ground-breaking work of Saskatchewan’s Cobalt-60 team and the hope they have given to people around the world,” said Denita Stann, PotashCorp’s Vice President of Investor and Public Relations.

Joan Champ, the exhibit’s curator, agrees: “The cobalt bomb is a shining example of Saskatchewan’s innovation in health care research – an innovation that had a worldwide impact,” she said.


Cobalt-60 at 60: The Legacy of Saskatchewan's Innovative Cancer Treatment - University of Saskatchewan Cobalt-60 at 60


The WDM considers the cobalt bomb to be one of the most important artifacts in its collection. This machine, and others like it, has saved the lives of millions of cancer patients around the world. This is very much a Saskatchewan - and a Saskatoon - story.

Saskatoon’s cobalt unit treated 6,728 patients until it was replaced in 1972, first by another cobalt radiotherapy machine, and later by a linear accelerator. By the 1960s, the cobalt-60 machine was standard equipment for radiation therapy world-wide. These machines are still in use in many developing countries that previously did not have the necessary resources for good radiation therapy.

Learn more:

Learn how the Cobalt-60 worked and more at the University of Saskatchewan's website:
Cobalt-60 at 60 - Explore our Legacy of Nuclear Medicine Innovation

Small model of proposed cobalt exhibit
Go 'Behind-the Scenes' into the making of the Cancer Bomb exhibit. 

Saskatchewan’s Cobalt-60 Beam Therapy Unit
Inaugurates a New Era in Cancer Treatment (PDF)

by Janet MacKenzie
5 September 2002

Go Behind-the-Scenes  >>

Saskatchewan InnovationYou might also be interested in:

- More Saskatchewan Innovations

- About the WDM Collection

- How to donate an artifact