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Lancet Oncol. 2005 Jun;6(6):392-400.

Radioisotopes for the palliation of metastatic bone cancer: a systematic review.

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Department of Palliative Medicine, Velindre NHS Trust, Velindre Hospital, Whitchurch, Cardiff, Wales, UK.


Strontium-89 and samarium-153 are radioisotopes that are approved in the USA and Europe for the palliation of pain from metastatic bone cancer, whereas rhenium-186 and rhenium-188 are investigational. Radioisotopes are effective in providing pain relief with response rates of between 40% and 95%. Pain relief starts 1-4 weeks after the initiation of treatment, continues for up to 18 months, and is associated with a reduction in analgesic use in many patients. Thrombocytopenia and neutropenia are the most common toxic effects, but they are generally mild and reversible. Repeat doses are effective in providing pain relief in many patients. The effectiveness of radioisotopes can be greater when they are combined with chemotherapeutic agents such as cisplatin. Some studies with 89Sr and 153Sm indicate a reduction of hot spots on bone scans in up to 70% of patients, and suggest a possible tumoricidal action. Further studies are needed to address the questions of which isotope to use, what dose and schedule to use, and which patients will respond.

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