A new international trial study is making strides towards treating cancer patients who were once considered incurable. The study which was conducted by the Lawson Health Research Institute called, SABR-COMET found that targeted high-dose radiation can improve survival rates in cancer patients whose tumors have come back in five or less locations.
The stereotactic ablative radiotherapy [SABR] works by delivering substantially higher doses of radiation than normal. For this study, the participants consisted of 99 patients from across the globe who had cancer that had metastasized to other places in the body.
“What we found is that patients who received SABR radiation lived longer than those who did not, by about 13 months on average. When we looked at patients five years later who received SABR, 50 per cent of them were still alive in comparison to the 25 per cent of patients who only had standard cancer treatments,” commented Dr. David Palma, the study’s lead author.
It is because of new advancements in technology and radiation that SABR is able to target specific locations of cancer in the body, rather than target the general area. Dr. Palma says that just like the phones in our pockets have changed so dramatically over the years, so have radiation techniques.
“We can now see where exactly tumors are located in the body and we can even see a tumor that is moving slightly as the patient breathes in and out if the tumor is located in their lungs. So what this new radiation lets us do is two things — one it lets us avoid a lot more of the normal body tissue, ensuring that their are fewer side effects and two, because this radiation is much more precise, we can also give very high doses. With SABR then, we are giving patients doses that we would not have been able to give 10 or twenty years ago, ” said Dr. Palma.
When this trial study first started, Dr. Palma was concerned that the quality of life would suffer in patients who received SABR radiation due to the considerably high doses. After conducting research and analysis, he found this not to be true.
“In the past cancer treatment options have had a reputation of lengthening life at the expense of altering the quality of life in a bad way. What we found here fortunately, is that when we compared the two groups of patients who got the SABR and those who had not, there was no difference in their quality of life, ” mentioned Dr. Palma.
— David Palma (@drdavidpalma) May 1, 2018
Looking into the future, Dr. Palma hopes that they can increase the amount of tumors in which they can target and follow up on patients up to ten years after they have had SABR radiation.
“As the next study, we plan to treat patients who had cancer come back in up to ten locations to see if we can treat them safely and improve the outcomes for our patients.”