Breakthrough: Huge cancer discovery could totally alter treatment

Breakthrough: Huge cancer discovery could totally alter treatment

A new study has just come to some major conclusions about using radiotherapy to attack cancer that has spread to the brain.

A groundbreaking new study published the journal The Lancet has found that whole brain radiotherapy isn’t of any benefit to people who have lung cancer that has spread to the bain, based on a trial of more than 500 patients. Radiotherapy didn’t prolong or improve the quality of life compared to other forms of treatment, which is important because it means that people with lung cancer no longer will need to get treatment with unpleasant side effects.

Secondardy brain tumors are typically treated with a type of brain radiotherapy combined with steroids and other treatments, but serious side effects like nausea and tremendous fatigue damage the quality of life for such patients, and it can also lead to damage of the nervous system.

On the downside, it takes away a treatment option for cancer patients, but on the upside the discovery prevents them from having to go through unnecessary pain.

“Whole brain radiotherapy was widely adopted into clinical practice based on the assumption it improves tumour control in patients with brain metastases. But in our lung cancer clinics, we were not seeing the improvements we had hoped for in our patients. Survival times are poor and have hardly changed since the 1980s. What’s more, the technique’s toxicity can be substantial and it can damage cognitive function”, explains study author Dr Paula Mulvenna, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

According to Professor Ruth Langley from the Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit at University College London, where the study was designed and co-ordinated, “Whole brain radiotherapy cannot be considered as the standard treatment for all patients with brain metastases because it does not extend survival, improve quality of life, or reduce steroid use. Overtime, there’s been a shift away from using whole brain radiation in favour of radiosurgery, which has minimal side effects. Our results could further restrict its use. In the future, potential new treatments (whether using drugs or stereotactic radiotherapy techniques) should be assessed in addition to best supportive care rather than in addition to, or in place of, whole brain radiotherapy.”

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