Radioligand therapy

Radioligand therapy is an innovative approach to treating certain types of cancer. It delivers radiation to specifically targeted cancer cells, with a minimal effect on healthy cells.

Context

Cancer care has seen progress in many areas, yet for many people effective treatment options are still not available. This is particularly true for aggressive or rare forms of cancer. One emerging type of treatment that has shown promise is radioligand therapy. It can improve survival and quality of life for many people with neuroendocrine cancers and castration-resistant prostate cancer that has spread to the bone.

A radioligand is made of two parts: a ligand, which can find cancer cells that have a particular surface molecule, and a radioisotope, which emits therapeutic radiation to kill cancer cells. The radioligand can target cells anywhere in the body.

Radioligands are highly versatile. They can be customised for diagnostic (imaging) or therapeutic (treatment) purposes by changing the type of radioisotope. Changing the ligand can allow targeting of different types of cancer or even other diseases.

Current cancer care often fails to meet the needs of people with rare cancers, or cancers that are resistant to treatments or have spread to other parts of the body. Radioligand therapy may help to address this gap and provide life-enhancing treatment for people with limited treatment options. It can play an important role in personalised, targeted healthcare.

The uptake of radioligand therapy across Europe is highly variable and integrating it into clinical practice will require new models of care and multidisciplinary coordination.

Additional project resources

What we’ve achieved

We set out to develop a policy report to raise awareness of radioligand therapy as an innovative component of cancer care. The work was guided by a steering committee, to which we invited patient advocates and experts in oncology and nuclear medicine from across Europe. We conducted desk research and interviews with experts to inform the report.

Alongside the policy report, we produced an animated video that explains how radioligand therapy works to a wider audience. We also created a short visual summary of radioligand therapy and the ten actions to overcome barriers to its integration in clinical cancer care.

The project was launched during an event at the European Parliament in Brussels in January 2020, co-hosted by Tanja Fajon MEP and Ewa Kopacz MEP. This was the first European-level policy meeting on radioligand therapy.

The project is housed on a dedicated website, www.radioligandtherapy.com, and has an independent Twitter account@radioligand.

A new phase of work is underway, exploring health system readiness for radioligand therapy.

Key partners and stakeholders

Steering committee:

  • Dr Josep Maria Borras, Director, Catalonia Cancer Strategy, Spain
  • Dr Jarosław Ćwikła, Professor, Department of Radiology, University of Warmia and Mazury, Poland
  • Professor Ken Herrmann, Director, Clinic for Nuclear Medicine, University Hospital Essen, Germany
  • Nikie Jervis, Specialist Nurse: Patient Support, Information & Education, NET Patient Foundation, UK

Interviewees:

  • Dr Valentina Ambrosini, Associate Professor of Nuclear Medicine, University of Bologna, Italy
  • Dr Jamshed Bomanji, Head of Clinical Department, Institute of Nuclear Medicine, University College London Hospital, UK
  • Dr John Buscombe, President, British Nuclear Medicine Society, UK
  • Dr Harald Lahner, Deputy Director, ENETS Center of Excellence, University Hospital Essen, Germany
  • Dr Annibale Versari, Director, Oncology and Advanced Technologies, ASMN Reggio Emilia, Italy

Project funding

This project was supported by a grant from Advanced Accelerator Applications, a Novartis company, with additional support from Curium.