Radioisotope therapy

Radionuclide therapy is a systemic treatment. It uses a molecule labelled with a radionuclide. This delivers a high level of radiation to treat some cancers

In Radioisotope therapy, we first perform a scan using the same molecule. This helps us decide if radionuclide therapy is suitable. We label it a different type of radiation that is suitable for imaging rather than therapy. This is how we personalise the therapy. This lets us predict if you are likely to receive help from therapy. We also call this type of therapy theranostics. This is a principle of using the same molecule for both diagnosis and therapy. It lets our doctors visualise therapy, which is rare in cancer therapeutics. 

We were Australia’s first centre to perform this treatment for neuroendocrine tumours. We have pioneered some of the treatments that centres around the world are now adopting. 

Radioisotope therapy patient information 

Get a referral for Radioisotope therapy

Speak to your GP or specialist about referring you to us for an appointment. 

Come in for your first Radioisotope therapy consultation 

Please bring any relevant information for your first nuclear medicine specialist consultation. This includes the following: 

  • prior scans 

  • test results  

  • correspondence from your doctors. 

One of our nuclear medicine specialists will talk with you. The physician will:  

  • review the results of all investigations to date 

  • discuss whether you might receive help from this therapy 

  • help you decide whether you are suitable for radionuclide therapy. 

Before Radioisotope therapy

We will discuss with you which, if any, range of side effects that you may experience.  

Come in for your Radionuclide therapy 

  1. Come into the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre at 305 Grattan Street, Melbourne. 

  2. Catch the main lifts to level 5

  3. Announce yourself at Cancer Imaging. 

You will be in for only the day or for one or more nights depending on the amount and type of radiation we administer. 

  • We perform most Lutetium-177 and Yttrium-90 therapies as an outpatient. 

  • Iodine-131 therapies need inpatient admission. Your stay will usually be between one and three nights. 

Radioisotope therapy recovery 

In most cases side effects are minimal or mild and depend on the type of therapy we have chosen. 

The therapy will deliver high levels of radiation to the tumours. At the same time, they will deliver much lower levels to your normal tissues. 

Type of cancers treated with radionuclide therapy 

Bone metastases 

We can treat tumours that have spread to bone - most of these are prostate or breast cancer. We use radioactive particles that your body can take up in areas of high bone turnover. The radioactive particles available for this type of treatment include 

  • Radium-223 (Xofigo) 

  • Strontium-90  

  • Samarium-153 EDTMP. 


We use Radioimmunotherapy (RIT) to target radiotherapy delivered to lymphoma cells. We use a drug called a monoclonal antibody. For this treatment, we label an antibody called rituximab. This targets a particular antigen (CD20) on the cell surface of lymphocytes. We use radioactive iodine (Iodine-131 rituximab) to treat lymphoma. Your haematologist will decide whether this therapy is suitable for you. 

Neuroendocrine tumours (NETs) 

We use Radionuclide therapy for treating neuroendocrine tumours. In particular, we use it for those arising from the pancreas, bowel, and lungs. We label a molecule that targets a specific receptor on the cell surface. We call this receptor somatostatin. We use a radioactive particle to target these tumours. We call this peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT). The radioactive particle is either Lutetium-177 or Yttrium-90. We have extensive experience in giving PRRT. We also have a large neuroendocrine multidisciplinary team. This team cares for all aspects of patients with NETs. 

We can also treat several rare tumours with this approach. These include pheochromocytoma, paraganglioma and neuroblastoma. We may use another therapy called Iodine-131 MIBG to treat these cancers. 

Prostate cancers 

Many prostate cancers express a unique substance on their cell surface. This is especially for those that have spread. It's also very often the case for those that have become resistant to hormonal therapies. We call this substance prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA). Lutetium-177 PSMA (LuPSMA)  is an evolving therapy. We currently perform this therapy as part of clinical trials. It delivers high doses of targeted radiation to sites of prostate cancer. At the same time, it spares most normal tissues. We receive a grant from the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF). This grant funds the Prostate Theranostics and Imaging (ProsTIC) centre of excellence. ProsTIC consists of a multi-disciplinary team. This team includes those in: 

  • nuclear medicine 

  • medical oncology 

  • radiation oncology 

  • urology  

  • laboratory-based doctors and researchers with a strong patient-centred philosophy. 

Thyroid cancers 

We use Radioactive iodine (Iodine-131) to treat thyroid cancer. We have done so for almost 80 years. We do this to treat some patients after thyroidectomy. It destroys any remaining cancer cells and prevents the thyroid cancer from returning. We also use it to treat patients with metastatic thyroid cancer. 

Location of Radioisotope therapy

Cancer Imaging level 5 
Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre 
305 Grattan Street 
Melbourne, VIC 3000 

Radioisotope therapy contact 


  • Phone: (03) 8559 5510 

  • Fax: (03) 8559 5519 

Pages related to Radioisotope therapy

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