The sodium iodide symporter (NIS) is responsible for thyroidal, salivary, gastric, intestinal and mammary iodide uptake. It was first cloned from the rat in 1996 and shortly thereafter from human and mouse tissue. In the intervening years, we have learned a great deal about the biology of NIS. Detailed knowledge of its genomic structure, transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation and pharmacological modulation has underpinned the selection of NIS as an exciting approach for targeted gene delivery. A number of in vitro and in vivo studies have demonstrated the potential of using NIS gene therapy as a means of delivering highly conformal radiation doses selectively to tumours. This strategy is particularly attractive because it can be used with both diagnostic (99mTc, 125I, 124I) and therapeutic (131I, 186Re, 188Re, 211At) radioisotopes and it lends itself to incorporation with standard treatment modalities, such as radiotherapy or chemoradiotherapy. In this article, we review the biology of NIS and discuss its development for gene therapy.