Novartis is reimagining cancer care with radioligand therapy (RLT) for patients with advanced cancers. RLT is a form of precision nuclear medicine that may recognize and treat disease.



Radioligand therapy explained

By harnessing the power of radioactive atoms and applying it to advanced cancers through radioligand therapy, RLTs are able to deliver radiation to target cells anywhere in the body. The goal of the targeted approach is to limit the damage to surrounding tissues.

Radioligand therapy explained

How is radioligand therapy developed?

Special instrument controlled by a production associate

Radioligand therapies have 2 primary components: the radioisotope and the cell-targeting compound, or ligand. Therapeutic radioisotopes are produced in special nuclear reactors or generators, then shipped to a production facility where the radioisotope is bonded to the cell- targeting compound. The finished product is then placed in vials, sent through quality testing, packaged into special lead-shielded containers, and shipped directly to the hospital or clinic as a ready-to-use therapy. The activity of the radioisotope diminishes over a specific period of time, therefore requiring timely delivery and administration to patient. Due to the limited time window for administration, these drugs are often produced as single-patient doses.

Nuclear Medicine - A “See It, Treat It” Approach

A “See It, Treat It” approach

Nuclear medicine has both diagnostic imaging and therapeutic components, which we call radioligand imaging and radioligand therapy. Both use the same targeting approach. The diagnostic imaging component delivers radioactive atoms that have the potential to reveal tumor locations, while the therapeutic component delivers radioactive particles that have the potential to damage cells.

The History of Nuclear Medicine

The history of nuclear medicine

Scientists first discovered and identified radioactive atoms in the late 1800s. They found that certain natural elements emit invisible rays of energy. They called this energy “radiation” and later applied it to imaging and treating cancer. It would take scientists decades to understand how to apply the energy that emerges from these special atoms.

Portrait of an elder man

The future of radioligand therapy

One of the fascinating aspects of radioligand therapy is the potential to combine different kinds of radioactive atoms, and targeting molecules, into different combinations unique for a particular type of tumor. At Novartis, we are experimenting with these interchangeable building blocks with the aim of developing new radioligand therapies to potentially treat a broad range of cancers.