Radioligand therapy

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

Radioligand therapy

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

Context

Despite progress in many areas of cancer care, many people still do not have effective treatment options, particularly for aggressive or rare forms of cancer. One emerging type of treatment is radioligand therapy, which has been shown to improve overall survival and quality of life for many people with neuroendocrine cancers and castration-resistant prostate cancer that has metastasised 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 these cells. The radioligand can target cells anywhere in the body.

Radioligands can be customised for diagnostic (imaging) or therapeutic (treatment) purposes by changing the type of radioisotope. Meanwhile, 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, playing an important role in realising the potential of personalised, targeted healthcare. However, its uptake across Europe is highly variable. Integrating it into clinical practice will require new models of care and multidisciplinary coordination.

What we achieved

HPP established a multi-stakeholder steering committee comprising patient advocates and experts in oncology and nuclear medicine from across Europe, to develop a policy report to raise awareness of radioligand therapy as an innovative component of cancer care. Through desk research and interviews with additional stakeholders, the report was drafted to reflect the consensus of the steering committee.

Alongside the main report, HPP created an animated video on radioligand therapy, to explain this complex process to a wider audience. We also created a two-page report summary featuring a top-line explanation of radioligand therapy and a distillation of the report’s recommended actions to overcome barriers to integration of radioligand therapy in clinical cancer care.

The report and other outputs were launched during an event at the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday 22 January 2020, which was co-hosted by Tanja Fajon MEP and Ewa Kopacz MEP. This was the first European-level policy meeting on radioligand therapy.

We created a dedicated website to house this project – www.radioligandtherapy.com – along with an independent Twitter account: @radioligand. A new phase of research is already underway for future work on radioligand therapy.

Key partners and stakeholders

Steering committee:

  • Dr Josep Maria Borras, Director, Catalonia Cancer Strategy, Spain
  • Dr Jaroslaw Cwikla, Professor, Department of Radiology, University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn, 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

Additional interviewees:

  • Dr Annibale Versari, Director, Oncology and Advanced Technologies, ASMN Reggio Emilia, Italy
  • Dr Harald Lahner, Deputy Director, ENETS Center of Excellence, University Hospital Essen, Germany
  • 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 Valentina Ambrosini, Associate Professor of Nuclear Medicine, University of Bologna, Italy
This project was supported by a grant from Advanced Accelerator Applications, a Novartis company, with additional support from Curium.