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  • Michael Jubinville, MPH
Publication Type:





Radioimmunotherapy (RIT) is a combination of radiation therapy and immunotherapy. Radiation therapy uses radiation to kill or shrink cancer cells. Immunotherapy uses proteins made to target and kill cancer cells. RIT can deliver a high dose of radiation directly to cancer cells.

Radiation of a Tumor.

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Reasons for Procedure

Currently, RIT is used to treat lymphomas. It may be used to treat other types of cancer in the future.

Compared to other methods, such as chemotherapy, RIT:

  • Delivers radiation directly to the cancer cells
  • Makes less damage to healthy cells
  • May cause fewer side effects
  • Has faster recovery

Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • An allergic reaction to the material
  • Tiredness or lightheadedness
  • Anemia from lower than normal blood cell counts
  • Fever and chills
  • Swelling or skin rash at the injection site
  • Loose stools (poop)

What to Expect

Problems to Look Out For

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Nausea, vomiting, or loose stools (poop)
  • Excess bruising, bleeding, or unusual discharge from the puncture site
  • Problems with urination (peeing)
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Fever or chills
  • Hair loss, skin rash, or skin changes
  • Loss of hunger

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.

Prior to Procedure

The care team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before treatment
  • Whether you need a ride to and from treatment
  • Tests that need to be done before treatment

RIT is not given to women may be or are pregnant, or breastfeeding.

Treatment will include:

  • Medicines to prevent nausea and vomiting
  • Iodine pills to protect the thyroid gland from radiation


RIT does not require anesthesia.

Description of the Procedure

There are several steps to RIT. The first step is to see if the person is right for the treatment.

An IV will be placed in a vein. It will allow medicine to pass into the bloodstream. A monoclonal antibody without radioactive material will be delivered first. This antibody will connect to a specific type of immune cell. This will protect these healthy cells from the radiation medicine. Next, a low dose of radioactive material is infused through the IV. The infusion is delivered slowly over a period of time.

The following week, imaging tests will be done. Imaging will see where the radioactive material traveled in the body. If the tests find that RIT has targeted the right area, the next part of the treatment will begin. Monoclonal antibodies with a higher dose of radioactive material will be given by IV. This will happen in multiple courses in the following weeks.

How Long Will It Take?

The infusion can take up to 2 hours. Infusions are done more than once over the course of 1 to 3 weeks.

Will It Hurt?

There may be a pinch when the needle is inserted. There may be a cold sensation when the radioactive material is infused into the vein.

Post-procedure Care

RIT works slowly. It will take several months for cancer cells to die and the tumor to shrink. There will be follow-up visits for blood and imaging tests during this time. These tests will check how well RIT is working.

Radioactive material is slowly flushed out with urine. The radioactive ingredient in the body can expose others to radiation. Home care instructions will include precautions about how to:

  • Protect other people who are near
  • Handle body waste that may have radioactive material




  • Follicular lymphoma: immunotherapy. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/follicular-lymphoma#IMMUNOTHERAPY.
  • Immunotherapy. Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website. Available at: http://www.lls.org/treatment/types-of-treatment/immunotherapy.
  • Lee KH, Jung KH, et al. Immuno-PET imaging and radioimmunotherapy of lymphomas. Mol Pharm. 2022;19(10):3484-3491.
  • Radioimmunotherapy (RIT). Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: https://www.radiologyinfo.org/en/info/radio-immuno.


  • Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.