Radiolabeled agents are powerful tools to target and kill cancer cells, and they may help improve outcomes and lengthen survival times of patients with advanced disease that has spread beyond the initial tumor site. Three recent studies explore the benefits of adding radionuclide therapy when treating metastatic cancer.

“The preliminary therapeutic results reported in these case studies using radionuclide multimodality approaches are encouraging,” says co-editor-in-chief Donald J. Buchsbaum, PhD, of Cancer Biotherapy and Radiopharmaceuticals and of University of Alabama at Birmingham. “The outcomes described in these small, single center studies must be confirmed in larger trials before they can be translated into widespread oncology practice.”

One study found that synergistic effects can be achieved when chemotherapy and radionuclides are combined, with the potential to enhance efficacy and minimize toxicity. Although advanced forms of lymphoma and neuroendocrine tumors are usually incurable, multimodal treatment approaches may be able to stop or slow tumor progression, achieve durable remission, prolong patient survival, and improve patients’ quality of life.

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Another study reported that patients survived longer and were free of disease when a radioimmunotherapeutic agent was added to their treatment regimen for relapsed or refractory aggressive non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

The third study involved adding peptide labeled with lutetium-177 to the therapeutic regimen of a group of patients with advanced neuroendocrine cancer. The study found substantially improved tumor control rates with no significant side effects.

These studies were published in Cancer Biotherapy and Radiopharmaceuticals (2012; doi:10.1089/cbr.2012.1274, doi:10.1089/cbr.2012.1275, and doi:10.1089/cbr.2012.1276, respectively).