Precision Radiation Therapy Found to Be Especially Successful Against Recurring Lung Cancer

Photo: HERB

There is some good news for those who suffer from recurring lung cancer.

Recent tests of an image-guided precision radiation therapy machine have shown to be a promising treatment for those who experience relapses of lung cancer. Known as intensity modulated proton therapy (IMPT), researchers found that by going through this treatment, many patients did not experience a cancer relapse within one year. In addition, only a select few experienced severe side effects.

IMPT can be especially beneficial for lung cancer patients who are either not candidates for surgery or have a very poor response rate to chemotherapy. Instead, IMPT uses repeated radiation treatments to shrink and eventually kill the cancer cells.

During the treatment, the IMPT uses scanning beam technology that systematically optimizes intensities of all different pencil beams to provide targeted radiation to the affected cells. Overall, these smaller lasers offer higher intensities to more precise locations, without injuring the surrounding healthy tissue.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, with the prediction that more than 155,870 Americans will die of this disease before 2017 is over. According to the Surgeon General, behind tobacco use, radon is the second leading cause of this cancer and is incredibly preventable.

It is important to note that recurrence of the cancer is the primary cause of death in many of these patients. So with this in mind, interest for IMPT has grown exponentially in the medical field as an option for those who cannot use conventional cancer treatments.

Radiation oncologist M.D. resident Jennifer Ho, explains to Technology Networks why exactly IMPT is different that chemotherapy or even traditional radiation.

“Historically, repeat radiation at a higher, curative dose was not possible with older, less precise radiation techniques because the cumulative radiation dose necessary to treat the cancer would cause too much toxicity. In lung cancer, tumors are close to the esophagus, aorta and spinal cord, and all of these critical structures are vital for the body to function. The proton beam [in IMPT] – and pencil beam in particular — provides much more conformal radiation, which means higher doses to tumors and lower dosages to critical structures nearby.”

For their study, researchers followed 27 patients who underwent IMPT therapy for lung cancer between 2011 and 2016. The average time until relapse was a full 29.5 months, and at one year after their yearly follow-up, a full 61% of patients were free of recurring cancers, with the progression-survival rate being 51%.

This data and research was presented at the 2017 Multidisciplinary Thoracic Cancers Symposium, in mid-March.

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