According to a study published in the journal Cancer, use of a single dose of stereotactic radiation therapy safety and effectively treated small lung tumors. The study evaluated both primary lung cancer (cancer that started in the lung) and metastatic lung cancer (cancer that spread to the lung from another part of the body).
A single, high dose of radiation therapy is highly effective in killing cancer cells, but produces too much damage to normal tissue to be used routinely. Developments in stereotactic administration of radiation therapy, however, may allow for the use of single doses of radiation therapy in some circumstances.
Stereotactic radiation therapy involves the very precise delivery of a large dose of radiation to a tumor while sparing normal tissue. This approach is used to treat brain tumors and is also being explored in the treatment of other cancers.
To evaluate the use of single-dose, stereotactic radiation therapy in the treatment of small lung tumors, researchers in Japan conducted a study among 47 patients with a total of 59 lung tumors. Eleven of the tumors were primary lung cancers (cancer that started in the lung), and 48 were metastatic (cancer that had spread to the lung from another part of the body). All tumors were smaller than four centimeters in size. The average patient age was 67 years.
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Stereotactic radiation therapy proved effective:
- After treatment, 18 tumors (32%) disappeared completely and 29 tumors (49%) disappeared partially.
- The proportion of tumors that had not progressed was 93% after one year and 78% after two years.
- 77% of patients survived at least one year, and 41% survived at least two years.
- Higher doses of radiation appeared to be more effective than lower doses of radiation.
- Treatment was generally well tolerated. One patient experienced moderate respiratory symptoms; one patient (who had active tuberculosis and pneumonia at the time of treatment) developed severe respiratory symptoms and required oxygen; and two patients experienced skin redness that subsequently healed.
The researchers conclude that a single dose of stereotactic radiation therapy was well tolerated and achieved excellent control of small lung tumors.
Reference: Hara R, Itami J, Kondo T et al. Clinical Outcomes of Single-Fraction Stereotactic Radiation Therapy of Lung Tumors. Cancer. 2006;106:1347-52.