Major applications in health

When radioactivity was discovered at the beginning of the 20th century, the researchers first thought about applications in healthcare. Though the development was not as fast as expected, radiotherapeutic applications with external beams quickly followed the discovery of X-ray imaging. The use of radioiodine in thyroid cancer therapy signed the emergence of nuclear medicine, which was followed by the development of new cameras from gamma imagers to Single Photon Emission Tomography (SPECT) and later Positron Emission Tomography (PET). Meanwhile, different types of beams were explored for therapy that led to the development of proton therapy (PT) and more generally hadron therapy (HT). Brachy therapy (BT) was also developed as a therapeutic alternative to external beams.

Today these technologies have reached such a high level of development that they bring completely new perspectives to the diagnostic and therapeutic applications. Radioactivity applications in healthcare are proposing new tools for functional imaging that cover not only oncology, but also cardiology and neurology. Radiotherapeutics have shown a higher efficacy over chemotherapy with new drugs that are either on the market or in late stage development. A high number of new radiopharmaceuticals are ready to reach the market within the next five years in both diagnostic and therapy, and radio pharmacy seems to be the ideal tool for the development of personalized medicine. The progress made by proton therapy is just as amazing, and this technology is now implemented at several places throughout the world. In summary, radioactivity in healthcare has a bright future based on all the expertise gained over the past century and will markedly expand in the next years, for the benefit of all patients.