The radiopharmaceutical comprises a radioactive element, for example Yttrium 90, that emits high-energy particles capable of destroying tissue, and a drug, for example Octreotate, that carries the radioactive element generally via the bloodstream to the site of treatment. The choice of radiopharmaceutical is dependent on the tumour type.
The therapeutic radiopharmaceutical is manufactured either in The Royal Marsden Radiopharmacy Department or off-site in a commercial radiopharmacy.
Inpatients and outpatients
For some therapies patients are treated as outpatients and can leave the hospital as soon as the therapy has been administered.
Other patients will need to be admitted to a dedicated, appropriately shielded unit (e.g. Smithers Ward) as they need to remain in hospital until the amount of radiation inside them has reduced to a required level.
The amount of retained radioactivity in these patients is monitored by the Radiation Physics staff until such time that the levels allow them to be safely discharged – usually two to three days, although this is dependent on the treatment.