As the field of radioimmunotherapy (RIT) continues to develop and looks increasingly promising, there is growing interest in the radiobiology of RIT. Recently, several investigators have conducted studies in animal models comparing the relative efficacy of RIT with dose equivalent external beam irradiation. Although these studies are the first of many to follow, the results are provocative and several patterns are suggested by the available data. The results of the studies are summarized and compared, and preliminary hypotheses that might explain the reported observations are discussed. In summary, results from studies comparing the efficacy of RIT with external beam irradiation have been variable and may be indicative of different underlying mechanisms. While the particular experimental model, design and methodology used to compare the efficacy of RIT with external beam irradiation are probably important influences upon subsequent observations, it appears that for a given tumor type, the size of the survival curve shoulder or alpha/beta ratio, and tumor doubling time are important determinants of the magnitude of the dose rate effect. When this effect is minimal, it is possible that other factors such as reoxygenation, the arrest of cells in G2, and selective targeting of tumor by radiolabelled antibody may explain, in part, the increased efficacy of RIT compared with external beam irradiation that has been observed in some systems.