Radiotheranostics in oncology: Making precision medicine possible

CA Cancer J Clin. 2023 May-Jun;73(3):255-274. doi: 10.3322/caac.21768. Epub 2023 Jan 9.


A quintessential setting for precision medicine, theranostics refers to a rapidly evolving field of medicine in which disease is diagnosed followed by treatment of disease-positive patients using tools for the therapy identical or similar to those used for the diagnosis. Against the backdrop of only-treat-when-visualized, the goal is a high therapeutic index with efficacy markedly surpassing toxicity. Oncology leads the way in theranostics innovation, where the approach has become possible with the identification of unique proteins and other factors selectively expressed in cancer versus healthy tissue, advances in imaging technology able to report these tissue factors, and major understanding of targeting chemicals and nanodevices together with methods to attach labels or warheads for imaging and therapy. Radiotheranostics-using radiopharmaceuticals-is becoming routine in patients with prostate cancer and neuroendocrine tumors who express the proteins PSMA (prostate-specific membrane antigen) and SSTR2 (somatostatin receptor 2), respectively, on their cancer. The palpable excitement in the field stems from the finding that a proportion of patients with large metastatic burden show complete and partial responses, and this outcome is catalyzing the search for more radiotheranostics approaches. Not every patient will benefit from radiotheranostics; but, for those who cross the target-detected line, the likelihood of response is very high.

Keywords: metastatic cancer; molecularly targeted therapies; nuclear medicine; pharmacology; positron emission tomography; radioisotopes; radiotheranostics; theranostics audit trail.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medical Oncology
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors*
  • Precision Medicine
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / diagnostic imaging
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / radiotherapy
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / therapeutic use


  • Radiopharmaceuticals