Radioimmunotherapy (RIT) is administered through the use of drugs called monoclonal antibodies. Each antibody contains a precise amount of ionized radiation. This drug delivers the radioactivity to the cancerous area by seeking out and latching onto proteins found on the prostate cancer cells. Radioimmunotherapy is typically used to treat single cancer cells that have spread from the prostate to other areas of the body.
By now, you have consulted with your radiation oncologist and have decided that radioimmunotherapy is the right treatment choice. Before a full course of radioimmunotherapy can begin, your care team will first administer relatively low-level radioactive antibodies. This is done to ensure that the antibodies work to target the right cells and leave healthy tissue alone. Imaging and lab tests are used to confirm that the antibodies are working.
Radioimmunotherapy is administered intravenously. When you arrive at the hospital or specialty care facility for treatment, a nurse will insert a needle and catheter (a small hollow tube) through the skin and into a vein. The medication is then injected. If an intravenous drip is used, a needle and catheter is inserted into your arm and the medication is injected into a bag of fluid that slowly enters your body. The number of radioimmunotherapy treatments a patient needs for a full course depends on age, weight, overall health, and the type of prostate cancer.
Radioimmunotherapy does not have the same side effects of external beam radiation therapy (EBRT). A temporary drop in white blood cell or platelet count is considered the most significant side effect of radioimmunotherapy. Paracetamol and antihistamines are often given to help prevent or lessen these side effects. If an intravenous drip is used and you experience any immediate side effects, be sure to let your nurse know and he or she can slow down or stop the drip until the effects pass. You should plan on meeting with your physician on a regular basis during prostate cancer treatment to discuss your progress.