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Controlling lung cancer through radiotherapy

A Manchester research team have been working out how to increase the radiotherapy dose for lung cancer patients by offering improved local control and better survival.

General treatment for locally-advanced non-small cell lung cancer is usually a combination of both radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Manchester University say that ‘traditionally, this [treatment] is planned in a one-size-fits-all manner, but the radiation dose may not always be enough to stop tumour growth’.

A research team at the university and with The Christie NHS Foundation Trust have looked at ways to personalise and increase the dose to the tumour whilst simultaneously minimising the effect on healthy tissue.

Increasing the dose of radiation that patients receive to their cancerous tissue depends on independent factors such as the size and location of the tumour in relation to sensitive organs which surround the area – such as the spinal cord and the lungs.

Dr Corinne Faivre-Finn, the study’s lead researcher said, “Current standard options for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer are associated with poor survival. We wanted to see if more advanced methods of planning and delivering radiotherapy treatment could potentially allow an increase in radiation dose.”

The research used 20 participants with lung cancer to investigate whether a newer radiotherapy technique called intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) could be used to increase the radiation dose to lung cancer patients without harming the close healthy organs. Treatment methods included ensuring a safe radiation dose was delivered to the patient so that none of the surrounding organs were at risk.

The new technique shows that radiation can be increased without damaging other tissue surrounding the tumour. The increased dose of radiation helps improve tumour control by up to 10%.

“We hope to demonstrate that the increased dose delivered to the tumour will lead to improved survival.” Added Dr Faivre-Finn.

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