What is radioimmunotherapy?

Radioimmunotherapy is a non-Hodgkin B-cell lymphoma and other cancer treatment option that combines radiation therapy and immunotherapy.

During RIT, monoclonal antibodies (a laboratory produced molecules) are paired with radioactive materials (radiotracers) and injected into the bloodstream. As the antibodies enter the bloodstream, they bind to cancer cells and deliver radiation directly into the tumor to kill the malignant cells.

Who is a candidate for radioimmunotherapy?

Patients who have newly diagnosed non-Hodgkin B-cell lymphoma and current non-Hodgkin B-cell patients who have not responded to chemotherapy are candidates for radioimmunotherapy. Also, patients who have other subtypes of lymphoma may be candidates for radioimmunotherapy.

Risks associated with radioimmunotherapy?

Side effects associated with RIT therapy include:

  • Reduction of blood counts
  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Allergic reaction
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Low blood pressure
  • Diarrhea
  • Rash

The reduction of blood counts is the most serious complication associated with RIT therapy, and it can occur as long as a few months after treatment.

Although allergic reactions are rare, they occur more frequently as you have multiple therapies.

What to expect during radioimmunotherapy

Many different Mercy Health care providers, including a radiologist, nuclear medicine doctor, radiation oncologist, medical oncologist and medical physicist, may be involved in your treatment plan.

During the first visit, you will receive a monoclonal antibody dose via IV. As the monoclonal antibody enters the bloodstream, it will attach to non-malignant B cells to protect them from the radiation used in the treatment. In some cases, a radiotracer is also injected. The entire procedure takes two hours.

If you had a radiotracer injected, you will return to your Mercy Health doctor within a week to take photos to locate where the radiotracer traveled. The data collected will help your doctor determine if you are an RIT candidate.

Within seven to ten days after the initial scan, you will receive the treatment. During the treatment, you will be given an IV infusion which consists of an IV injection of the radioactive agent and monoclonal antibody.

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