What is Nuclear Medicine?

Harnessing the energy in atoms for diagnostics and therapies

In 1901, Wilhelm Roentgen was awarded the first Nobel Prize in physics for his discovery of X-Rays. X-ray images are captured in a similar way to traditional film photography: an energy source is aimed at the object being imaged, and a film sensitive to the energy source captures an imprint. Now in use for over one hundred years, X-rays are a common and well-known tool used for morphology-based diagnostics, such as assessing broken bones.

Compared to X-Rays, Nuclear Medicine is a lesser-known medical diagnostic and therapeutic technology. There are several key differences between Nuclear Medicine and X-Rays:

  1. Energy Source - With an X-ray, the energy source is located outside the body and shined towards it. With Nuclear Medicine, the energy source is within the body – delivered via a radiopharmaceutical - and shines outwards. This key difference enables Nuclear Medicine to be used to evaluate physiology, the function of the body, as compared to X-rays which are better suited for morphology – the form of the body.  
  2. Type of Radiation – While all X-ray images are created using X-Rays, the specific type of radiation utilized in Nuclear Medicine depends on the radioisotope. Radioisotopes are atoms that emit their excess energy via radiation. Scientists use different radioisotopes as ingredients to create radiopharmaceuticals to target cancer.
  3. Diagnostics and Therapy - Nuclear Medicine can not only be used for diagnostic imaging, but for therapeutic treatment as well. Doctors have been using radiopharmaceutical treatments for over seventy-five years, starting with phosphorus-32 for the treatment of leukemia. In 1941 Saul Hertz created one of the most common radiopharmaceutical therapies, Iodine-131 for the treatment of hyperthyroidism - a safe and effective treatment which continues to be the standard of care for thyroid cancer today.

Innovations in the field of physics and the discovery of new medical isotopes is accelerating Nuclear Medicine’s progress faster than ever before, and we are positioning ourselves to be a leader in this exciting field.

The concept of targeting radiation within the body, and inflicting radiation damage only to tumour tissue while sparing surrounding healthy tissues has created a field of Nuclear Medicine called Radioligand therapy or targeted radionuclide therapy (TRT), and more specifically related to alpha particle-emitting radioisotopes, targeted alpha therapy (TaT). Radioligand therapy is achieved by linking a medical isotope emitting toxic radiation to an agent that delivers the isotope (and radiation) selectively to cancer cells and the tumour microenvironment.  The key success factor in developing Radioligand therapy is identifying targets that are present within the cancer cell or tumour microenvironment but are not present on healthy cells. The agent, a small molecule, peptide, or antibody, is then designed to bind only to these cancer-specific targets, allowing the agent to deliver radiation only to cancer cells with minimal toxic effects to the rest of the body.

We are focused on identifying new targets for targeted radioligand therapy, developing more effective targeting agents, and combining the right isotope with the targeting agent to create radiopharmaceuticals that will deliver the radiation needed to kill cancer cells while leaving surrounding healthy tissue unharmed.

Partnering in Nuclear Medicine

POINT Biopharma is a proud contributor and principal member of the Value Initiative Industry Alliance with the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI).

Through the Value Initiative we will collaborate with the SNMMI and other industry partners to advance the crucial role of nuclear medicine and molecular imaging with the medical community, regulators, patients, and the public.