What is radiopharmaceutical therapy and how can it transform cancer care?

Published on 03 January 2024 Read 25 min

The intriguing aspect of radiopharmaceuticals in cancer care lies in their capacity to deliver treatment with pinpoint accuracy, thus minimizing harm to healthy tissues while effectively eradicating cancerous cells in the localized region of the tumor. In this article, Alcimed decrypts the latest dynamics and the future outlook of the radiopharmaceuticals market.

What are radiopharmaceuticals used for in cancer therapy?

Radiopharmaceuticals play a significant role within the realm of cancer care, particularly in the domain of nuclear medicine. These specialized medications incorporate a radioactive isotope and are coupled with biological molecules. Radiopharmaceuticals can be used for therapeutic or diagnostic purposes. In essence, as therapeutic drugs they selectively target specific cancer cells, thereby providing precise radiation therapy aimed at treating the illness.

A market that has made significant progress in recent years

The radiopharmaceutical market has been equally driven by well-known groups as well as specialized companies

Several pharmaceutical companies and research institutions are involved in the development and production of radiopharmaceuticals for cancer care. A selection of key players in this field include

  • Novartis: Novartis has been a major player in radiopharmaceuticals, particularly with its product Lutathera (Lutetium Lu 177 dotatate), used for the treatment of certain neuroendocrine tumors.
  • Bayer AG: Bayer is another major company with an interest in radiopharmaceuticals. It is known for its product Xofigo (Radium Ra 223 dichloride), used in the treatment of prostate cancer with bone metastases.
  • Advanced Accelerator Applications: This company is dedicated to developing innovative radiopharmaceutical therapies, including Lutathera and belongs to Novartis
  • Curium: Curium is a company that specializes in nuclear medicine and molecular imaging, offering various radiopharmaceuticals for cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Besides industrial players, many universities and research centers are also actively involved in research and development of new radiopharmaceuticals and their applications in cancer care.

The radiopharmaceuticals market has benefited from a technological and political push

The market for radiopharmaceuticals in cancer care has been steadily growing due to several factors.

First of all, the incidence of cancer cases is increasing over time. Cancer continues to be a global health challenge, and as the incidence of cancer cases rises, there is a greater need for effective and targeted treatment options like radiopharmaceuticals.

Also, advances in medical imaging and nuclear medicine have led to the development of more sophisticated radiopharmaceuticals and imaging agents, expanding their potential applications in cancer diagnosis and treatment. Next, radiopharmaceuticals offer a personalized approach to cancer treatment, as they can be tailored to target specific types of cancer cells, resulting in better outcomes and reduced side effects.

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Lastly, with the approval of novel radiopharmaceuticals by regulatory agencies like the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), their accessibility and use has been increased. Yet it needs to be mentioned that effective distribution into the different places around the globe can be challenging for existing supply chains and possibly can limit utility of radiopharmaceuticals in some regions.

How will the market for radiopharmaceutical therapy look like in the next years?

The market for radiopharmaceuticals in cancer care is expected to continue growing in the coming years. As research and development efforts progress, new radiopharmaceuticals with enhanced targeting capabilities and reduced side effects are likely to emerge.

Additionally, as personalized medicine becomes more prevalent, radiopharmaceuticals will play a crucial role in providing individualized treatment options for cancer patients. The market is estimated in 2021/2022 to 4.9bn$/6.2bn$ and assumed to grow with a CAGR between ca. 5-11% until the end of this century.

Moreover, the integration of radiopharmaceuticals with other cancer therapies, such as immunotherapy and targeted therapies, may lead to synergistic treatment approaches and improved patient outcomes.

The increasing interest in theranostics (combining diagnostics and therapeutics) is also expected to contribute to the expansion of the radiopharmaceutical market. However, it is important to note that the market for radiopharmaceuticals can be influenced by factors such as regulatory policies, reimbursement models, the competitive landscape, or an effective supply chain. Therefore, the growth of this market will depend on how effectively these challenges are addressed by key players, regulatory bodies, and healthcare systems. We will keep you updated about the future development in this exciting path of cancer care. If you are working on a project related to radiopharmaceutical therapy, do not hesitate to contact our team.

About the author, 

Volker, Great Explorer Oncology in Alcimed’s Life Sciences team in Germany

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