What is targeted radionuclide therapy?

You may have targeted radionuclide therapy to relieve symptoms of carcinoid syndrome and control the growth of neuroendocrine tumours (NETs).

This therapy uses a radioactive substance called a radionuclide. It is injected into the bloodstream. Cancer cells absorb the radionuclide more than normal cells. This means they receive a higher dose of radioactivity. This eventually destroys the cancer cells. 

To control the growth of NETs, the radionuclide can be combined with a substance called octreotide or MIBG. The NET cells absorb the drug along with the radioactive substance.

If the treatment uses octreotide, it is sometimes called peptide receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT).

Targeted radionuclide therapy only works for NETs that absorb large amounts of octreotide or MIBG. So before treatment, you will have a scan. The scan will measure how much octreotide or MIBG the tumour absorbs.

After targeted radionuclide therapy

After the radionuclide therapy, you will need to be in a room by yourself for a few days. This is so the radiation cannot affect others, especially children and pregnant women. Your nurse will give you more information about this.

Possible side effects of targeted radionuclide therapy

Some people get a tummy ache or feel sick because of the treatment. Medicines can help with this. There may be a temporary drop in some of your blood cell levels. If this happens, you may feel tired, be more at risk of infection, or bruise or bleed more easily. But doctors will monitor you closely.

For most people, the side effects do not last long and they recover quickly.

About our information

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Professor Tim Iveson, Consultant Medical Oncologist.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.

How we can help

Macmillan Cancer Support Line
The Macmillan Support Line offers confidential support to people living with cancer and their loved ones. If you need to talk, we'll listen.
0808 808 00 00
7 days a week, 8am - 8pm
Email us
Get in touch via this form
Chat online
7 days a week, 8am - 8pm
Online Community
An anonymous network of people affected by cancer which is free to join. Share experiences, ask questions and talk to people who understand.
Help in your area
What's going on near you? Find out about support groups, where to get information and how to get involved with Macmillan where you live.