Radiomolecular precision oncology: a comprehensive treatment approach with high potential

A significant obstacle still faced in oncology is damage to healthy cells inflicted during treatment, which robs patients of their quality of life while battling cancer. Targeted radionuclide therapy (TRT) is a type of radiomolecular precision oncology that addresses this issue by deploying cancer-killing radiation directly to tumour cells, with little damage to healthy, surrounding tissue. Richard Baum, President of the International Centers for Precision Oncology (ICPO) Academy, explains more.

Despite great therapeutic advances, cancer remains a leading cause of death worldwide. A major limitation in the treatment for most cancers is the inability of therapies to effectively target cancer cells without damaging normal ones. Precision diagnosis and treatment providing a personalised approach is the new focus for patients with cancer. An exciting, novel approach, targeted radionuclide therapy (TRT) has emerged as a novel avenue to specifically target cancer cells. TRT is very different from traditional radiation therapy, which uses external beam radiation to destroy cancer cells. TRT, a form of radiomolecular precision oncology, uses a sophisticated targeting approach that keeps patient wellbeing at the forefront of therapy, from diagnosis to treatment.

A new approach to targeting cancer

At the heart of TRT is a new class of drugs called radiopharmaceuticals, which deliver radiation directly to cancer cells. Radiopharmaceuticals consist of a specific cancer-targeting molecule (eg, a peptide or antibody) combined with a radioisotope, which kills the cells. The radiopharmaceutical (the ‘key’) is injected intravenously and circulates through the bloodstream until it binds to the tumour‑specific receptor or enzyme (the ‘lock’). Once attached to the cancer cells (see Figure 1), the radioisotope emits ionising radiation that damages DNA, resulting in cancer cell death and halted tumour growth, with little damage to the normal surrounding tissues. Given this highly precise localisation, TRT is rapidly emerging as a high‑potential radiation oncology treatment for patients with cancer who have limited treatment options.