At GenesisCare, we provide specialist cancer care to thousands of people worldwide. Theranostics is a highly personalised approach to cancer medicine combining diagnostic imaging with therapy. Radium-223 therapy is a treatment for prostate cancer that has spread (metastasised) to your bones and is causing you pain. Your doctor may recommend it if your cancer has become resistant to hormone therapy or other treatments are unsuitable. This kind of cancer can’t be completely eradicated, however, the aim of Radium-223 therapy is to ease pain and slow down the progress of the disease.
This highly personalised therapy is available in our state-of-the-art treatment centres in Oxford and Windsor. Our multidisciplinary Theranostics team, led by a world-leading expert, will work with your referring doctor to decide if this treatment is right for you and what you can expect from it.
How does Radium-223 therapy work?
Radium-223 therapy is a type of internal radiotherapy that uses a radioactive form of the metal radium to treat the spread of cancer to the bones. It is also known as Radium-223 Dichloride or by the brand name ‘Xofigo’.
A very small amount of radioactive liquid containing Radium-223 is injected into your bloodstream through a vein in your arm and the areas in your bones that are affected by prostate cancer absorb it.
Why is Radium-223 used to treat cancer?
Radium-223 is used in this treatment because it behaves in a similar way to calcium in the body. Cancerous areas in your bones takes up more calcium than normal bone tissue. Because Radium-223 acts like calcium, it’s also taken up by these diseased areas and collects there. This means the Radium-223 delivers targeted radiotherapy for the prostate cancer, while healthy bone tissues take up much less Radium-223, limiting the side effects of treatment.
Does Radium-223 kill cancer cells?
Radium-223 therapy destroys the cancer cells, which helps to control pain and can slow down the progress of the disease. Before starting treatment, you’ll have a highly precise imaging scan to confirm that the cancer has spread to your bones without affecting other organs, such as your liver.
Radium-223 therapy life expectancy: how successful is it?
Radium-223 therapy is for men with prostate cancer who have painful bone metastases. While this kind of cancer can’t be completely eradicated, the aim of Radium-223 therapy is to ease pain and slow down the progress of the disease. Your consultant will explain what you can expect from this treatment.
Who is Radium-223 therapy for?
Radium-223 therapy may be suitable for you if you:
- Have prostate cancer that has spread to your bones but not other organs
- Experience bone pain
- Have had hormone treatment that is no longer working
- Have either had or aren’t suitable for Docetaxel (a chemotherapy drug)
Because the medicine is naturally removed form the body through the faeces, if you don’t have full control over your bowel movements (also known as faecal incontinence), this treatment is not suitable for you because of the risk of exposing other people to radiation such as when handling soiled clothing or sanitary pads.
If you have cancer that has spread to other organs such as the liver or have large amounts of cancer in your lymph nodes, then an alternative Theranostics treatment called ¹⁷⁷Lutetium PSMA therapy may be suitable for you. You can ask your consultant for more details.
What does Radium-223 therapy involve?
Radium-223 therapy is available at our GenesisCare centres in Oxford and Windsor. It’s normally given as a course of up to six treatments cycles that are each four weeks apart. Before your first appointment, your care team will call you to explain any preparation instructions in advance of each treatment and to answer any questions you may have.
Your consultant may refer you for Radium-223 therapy if you’ve had an imaging scan that shows prostate cancer within your bones.
In the meantime, we’ll book your first appointment and our Theranostics team will contact you to give you more information about the treatment and advice about protecting yourself and others from radiation throughout your treatment. We’ve included many of these details in this brochure and will provide further advice at each appointment. You can also contact your care team at any time if you have any questions.
You’ll meet the same member of your care team at each appointment, so they’ll get to know you and help you feel comfortable.
At each treatment cycle, one of our highly trained Theranostics specialists will administer the Radium-223 therapy in one of our chemotherapy suites or uptake rooms that is set up specifically for this treatment. The treatment is injected using a cannula (needle) inserted into a vein in your arm. If you’re nervous of needles, just let us know and we may be able to help make this easier for you.
Your specialist will test the cannula and then administer the Radium-223. You shouldn’t feel any pain or discomfort, and it takes just 10 minuets. You can leave the centre within 30 minutes of the injection. Uour care team will give you a treatment record sheet after you leave each appointment which will have details of the treatment you’ve had radiation precautions for you to follow. You should carry this with you until your team advise you that it’s no longer required.
Around two to three weeks after each treatment cycle, you’ll have a blood test and be seen by your consultant to make sure you can have the next injection without unnecessary risks or severe side effects. Your consultation will take place either at the GenesisCare centre where you received treatment or by remote consultation using our Telehealth video conferencing system. You can have these blood tests at your local GP practice and your Theranostics team will help you to arrange these.
At the end of your treatment cycles, the Theranostics care team will refer you back to your original oncologist with all the details of your Radium-223 treatments so that they can manage any ongoing treatment and monitor your health.
What are Radium-223 side effects?
As with all cancer treatments, you may experience side effects, but they aren’t usually serious. Our Theranostics care team will discuss these with you before treatment and you’ll be given contact details to phone if you have any issues.
Side effects include a temporary reduction in the number of blood cells your body produces causing anaemia, as well as fatigue or tiredness, and some patients describe feeling general aches and pains all over for a day or two after treatment. You may experience nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea and dehydration, but this happens rarely.
If you experience any of the following more severe side effects, you should contact our Theranostics care team immediately:
- Any unusual bruising
- More bleeding than usual after an injury
- Fever (a high temperature)
- Experiencing a lot of colds or getting other infections
- Pain, swelling or numbness of the jaw, a “heavy jaw” feeling or loosening of a tooth
Our team will continue to follow up on your health and wellbeing by phone or email during and after your treatment. You’ll meet the same care team at each appointment so they’ll get to know you and you can ask them any questions.
Is Radium-223 therapy safe?
Radium-223 is considered a safe treatment for your condition. However, the radiation can cause damage to cells in the body that may have longer term health effects to you and anyone else exposed to it. Your consultant will consider this, along with other risks, during the planning of your treatment and will fully discuss them with you. You’ll be given advice at each appointment as well as an instruction card with your treatment record to show any other healthcare professional treating you for any reason, including your dentist.
Why choose GenesisCare?
We offer many state-of-the-art treatments for prostate cancer, including chemotherapy and advanced radiotherapy. Your personalised treatment plan will be tailored to your individual needs and delivered by a dedicated team including nuclear medicine nurse support, physicists, radiographers and clinical nurse specialists.
We understand living with advanced cancer can feel overwhelming. That’s why we have partnered with the Penny Brohn UK charity to provide personalised wellbeing therapies, such as acupuncture, massage and counselling, to support you throughout this challenging time.
Our patients are also offered a tailored exercise medicine programme which is proven to help some people improve treatment tolerance, function, fatigue and quality of life. If you choose to take part, one of our highly trained physiotherapists will provide you with a personalised program of exercises that are adapted to your abilities, goals and diagnosis.
These services are available to you at no extra cost to you or your insurer because we understand the importance of supporting you throughout your treatment journey and the positive impact these therapies can have.
After all, we’re treating you – not just your cancer.