how many hospitals/clinics perform radionuclide therapy in the United States?
Radionuclide therapy or radiopharmaceutical therapy (RPT) is defined as the use of a radionuclide (radioactive material) linked to a targeting molecule that is then injected into a patient to treat various diseases including cancer. The targeting molecule attaches to receptors on certain cancer cells and the radiation disrupts the cell's normal functioning and therefore destroys it.
RPT has been in use since the early 1900s and has become a common treatment, especially for cancers that are difficult to treat with traditional external beam radiation therapy. For example, Iodine-131 has been used safely and effectively for many decades to treat hyperthyroidism (Graves Disease) and thyroid cancer. It is difficult to quantify the number of hospitals and clinics that perform RPT services because that number is constantly increasing and there is no comprehensive database that tracks this. According to the World Nuclear Association, the demand for radioisotopes in general is increasing by up to 5% annually, and much of this use is in medical applications such as nuclear imaging and RPT. There is a great deal of emerging research in this area, and new therapies such as Lutetium-177, Actinium-225 and Radium-223 are changing the landscape of cancer treatment and providing patients with new and improved treatment options. Some RPT agents also emit gamma rays that can be used to produce images that demonstrate the distribution of the therapeutic agent in the body. This is known as "theranostics" because the radionuclide agent is used for both therapy and diagnostic imaging within the same treatment.