Radiopharmaceuticals: when and how to use them to treat metastatic bone pain

J Support Oncol. 2011 Nov-Dec;9(6):197-205. doi: 10.1016/j.suponc.2011.06.004.


Bone pain due to skeletal metastases constitutes the most common type of cancer-related pain. The management of bone pain remains challenging and is not standardized. In patients with multifocal osteoblastic metastases, systemic radiopharmaceuticals should be the preferred adjunctive therapy for pain palliation. The lack of general knowledge about radiopharmaceuticals, their clinical utility and safety profiles, constitutes the major cause for their underutilization. Our goal is to review the indications, selection criteria, efficacy, and toxicities of two approved radiopharmaceuticals for bone pain palliation: strontium-89 and samarium-153. Finally, a brief review of the data on combination therapy with bisphosphonates or chemotherapy is included.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Neoplasms / complications
  • Bone Neoplasms / radiotherapy*
  • Bone Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Diphosphonates / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Pain / etiology
  • Pain / radiotherapy*
  • Patient Selection
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / therapeutic use*


  • Diphosphonates
  • Radiopharmaceuticals