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Radiochemistry and Cancer Imaging

Updated: Jun 18, 2021

Author: Serena Tai

Editors: Shamsia Ahmed and Ethan Liu

Artist: Abhinaya Vijayanand

At first glance, you may think that radiochemistry is the chemistry of radios. But after searching it up on the trusty internet, you’ll surprisingly notice that radiochemistry is the chemistry of radioactive materials. It not only involves the study of chemical transformations of radioactive substances, but the handling of radioactive waste from nuclear power engineering. It also deals with solving radioecology problems and developing methods for manufacturing sources of radioactive emissions. That may already be a lot to comprehend, but those are just a few of the many critical applications of radiochemistry.

Now, a little background so that you don’t get too confused. The cyclin D-cyclin dependent kinase (CDK) 4/6-inhibitor of CDK4 (INK4)-retinoblastoma (Rb) pathway controls cell cycle progression by regulating the G1-S checkpoint. Thus, dysregulation of the cyclin D-CDK4/6-INK4-Rb pathway results in increased proliferation and is frequently observed in many types of cancer. Pathway activation can occur through a variety of mechanisms, including gene amplification or rearrangement, loss of negative regulators, epigenetic alterations, and point mutations in key pathway components. This leads us to one of the most important applications of radiochemistry: using CDK4/6 inhibitors and molecular imaging to treat patients with cancer where the pathway is dysregulated.

Due to the importance of CDK4/6 activity in cancer cells, CDK4/6 inhibitors have emerged as promising candidates for cancer treatment. Moreover, a combination of a CDK4/6 inhibitor with other targeted therapies may help overcome acquired or new treatment resistance. Ongoing studies include combinations of CDK4/6 inhibitors with endocrine therapy and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) pathway inhibitors for hormone receptor-positive (HR+) breast cancers. However, currently, only three selective CDK4/6 inhibitors have been approved or are in late-stage development: palbociclib, ribociclib, and abemaciclib.

Radiochemistry may seem insignificant or irrelevant, but it was because of radio-chemists that the inhibition of CDK4/6 was found to be a promising strategy for anticancer treatment and that the addition of these inhibitors to other agents may overcome resistance.



Hamilton, Erika, and Jeffrey R. Infante. “Targeting CDK4/6 in Patients with Cancer.” Cancer

Treatment Reviews, W.B. Saunders, 8 Mar. 2016,

“Radiochemistry.” Radiochemistry - and Overview | ScienceDirect Topics,

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