Focused radiation treatment targets lung cancer


While the anomaly proved to be scar tissue, the imaging test showed a more worrisome issue for the then 73-year-old Beaumont woman: A 1.5-inch cancerous tumor was growing on the outside of her lung. Instead of invasive surgery or weeks of radiation treatment, she could have the tumor treated with a short- course, targeted form of radiation that minimizes damage to surrounding tissue. Combined with results from another clinical trial, the study suggested that targeted radiation treatment was at least as good as traditional surgery in treating early-stage lung cancer, and possibly better. If those findings are confirmed by a much larger clinical trial, it could significantly improve outcomes for lung cancer patients. Radiation is delivered via a robotic arm, much like those used to build cars on automated assembly lines, that rotates around the body shooting hundreds of beams of radiation from multiple angles with pinpoint accuracy to destroy the tumor. The study, published last month in the journal Lancet Oncology, combined the results of two clinical trials that had been halted before completion due to a lack of enrollment. Lung cancer surgery is a major operation with a high complication rate. The authors suggested that reducing lung function through surgery may have exacerbated other conditions, leading to more deaths in the surgery arm of the study. Lung cancer rates are expected to rise in the U.S. over the coming years due to the aging population and past smoking rates. According to the American Cancer Society, more than half of lung cancer patients die with one year of being diagnosed. Studies have shown that screening patients at high risk for lung cancer, generally those with a long history of smoking, can help save lives. Many doctors remain skeptical that the outcomes will hold up long term, and many still won't consider SABR for their lung cancer patients. A 2012 cost-effectiveness analysis by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that SABR treatment of early-stage non-small-cell lung cancer would cost an average of $14,153, with a mean survival of 2.94 years.

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