In patients who, with early stage lung cancer, the normal treatment is a surgery, says Russell K. Hales, M.D. “But some patients can't tolerate that surgery, and for them, we use radiation to treat their cancer.” Over the past five years, three major areas of radiation therapy for lung cancer patients have seen important innovations and advances, says Hales, a radiation oncologist at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center on the Johns Hopkins Bayview campus. They include:
- Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), also known by such brand names as Cyber Knife or Cinergy. SBRT is an outpatient treatment that delivers highly focused radiation to a small lung tumor in four to five treatments, using multiple beams from many directions to pinpoint the tumor and increase the likelihood that the tumor will be destroyed. Hales notes that major studies have been done to investigate how effective SBRT, or radiosurgery, is in patients with early stage lung cancer, showing that 90% of patients had their tumor controlled as of four years after surgery. Another large study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association showed a 97% local control rate at three years.
- Image-guided radiation therapy: “When a patient comes for treatment, a CT scan is done that is compared with a scan that is used to plan the radiation treatment,” Hales notes. “When the patient is positioned on the table, these scans are overlaid on top of one another, and fine adjustments are made to make sure that the patient is in their exact position.” He says that this fine image guidance allows better accuracy and fewer side effects in radiation treatment.
- Motion management: Some lung cancer patients receive a 4DCT scan that shows how the tumor moves as the patient breathes. The new technology allows radiation oncologists like Hales to track exactly where the tumor moves during breathing. As a result, physicians can treat an even smaller area, resulting in fewer side effects.
Find out more from Dr. Hales about lung cancer, treatments for it, and innovative new research to help lung cancer patients in the free webinar, Lung Cancer: Serious Treatment for a Serious Cancer.