The Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre (BWOSCC) has been part of a phase ll clinical trial which has shown that an aggressive form of high precision radiation therapy can greatly increase the lives of patients diagnosed with metastatic tumours (oligometastic).
Generally, when a patient has a cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, called metastatic cancer, they are considered incurable, but, in the first randomized trial of its kind, researchers at a number of cancer centres across the world have shown that an aggressive form of high-precision radiation therapy can double how long a patient can live without cancer.
The findings were presented this week at the 60th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO).
This multi-centre trial studied patients with a variety of oligometastatic cancers that is cancers that had been previously treated but then returned in a limited number of other parts of the body including patients at the BWOSCC.
The patients were treated with stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), also known as stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT), which is a form of high-precision cancer therapy that delivers substantially higher doses of radiation to the tumor site in just one or a few treatment sessions.
In this open-label study called SABR-COMET 99 patients from four countries (Canada, Scotland, the Netherlands and Australia) were enrolled as part of the trial. Each patient had been treated for cancer but the cancer had returned, with tumors appearing in as many as five different places. All patients had good performance status and a life expectancy of more than six months.
Dr Stephen Harrow, Ph.D a National Research Scotland Fellow at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre and co-author on the study, said: “Until recently people who have had cancer spread to other parts of their bodies were considered to be incurable.”
The study was developed by Dr David Palma a clinician-scientist at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research which provided funding for this study.
As a result of Dr Harrow and Dr Palma’s collaboration at the BWOSCC was the only UK site to open the study, enabling access to SABR treatment in this clinical indication for Scottish patients.
Dr Harrow added: “When a cancer has spread to other organs other than the original site of the disease they were considered incurable.
“However there is a theory called the oligometastatic theory – that if a patient only has a few spots of cancer returning, those spots could be killed with radiation or with surgery to improve their survival. But this has never been shown in a randomized trial.
“It has been a great opportunity for Scottish patients to take part in this ground breaking clinical trial and now we’ve been able to show that if, indeed, a patient’s cancer has spread to only a few spots, those tumors can be targeted with high-dose radiation which has been shown to increase survival by a median of 13 months.”
David Palma, MD, PhD, lead author and researcher at Lawson Health Research Institute, the research institute of London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) and lead institution of the multi-center study said: “Traditionally, when a patient had a cancer that spread to other parts of their body — such as to their bones or brain — they were considered to be incurable.
“But there’s a theory — called the oligometastatic theory — that if a patient only has a few spots of cancer returning, those spots could be killed with radiation or surgery to improve their survival.
“Now, we’ve been able to show, for the first time in a randomized trial, that high-dose radiation can effectively treat these limited recurrences, and we’ve been able to increase survival by a median of 13 months.”
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Pic: Dr Stephen Harrow, Ph.D a National Research Scotland Fellow at the BWOSCC