ESTRO 29: Focus on cutting edge cancer therapy

14 Sep 2010

Major benefits of radiotherapy unveiled in over 50 clinical trials

ESTRO, the European Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology, opened its biennial conference in Barcelona, Spain. ESTRO 29 will see oncology experts from across the globe coming together to discuss the most relevant and cutting edge issues relating to oncology, radiation oncology, radiation biology, radiation physics and technology. With some 3 million Europeans being diagnosed with cancer every year, and 1 in 3 people developing the disease during their lifetime, radiotherapy – the use of targeted radiation to treat cancer - is playing an increasingly prominent role in treating many common forms of cancer.

ESTRO's ultimate goal is to drive the practice of radiotherapy forward by providing information for health care professionals who treat cancer patients. Speaking at the opening ESTRO President Prof Jean Bourhis stressed the need for 'increased access to information on cancer treatment options' and called for 'a heightened public awareness of treatment benefits'.

Hot topics at ESTRO 29 - Cutting Edge Radiotherapy

ESTRO 29 features the next generation of cancer treatments that are improving the lives of people with cancer. Image-guided radiotherapy therapy (IGRT) is just one of the latest forms of radiotherapy that better delivers radiation therapy to cancerous tumours, achieving maximum tumour control with minimal complications and sparing healthy tissue from exposure to radiation.

Another recent development in radiotherapy is proton therapy which is a pinpoint-accurate radiation treatment that delivers the exact dose of radiation needed to treat a tumour. This therapy promises better outcomes for patients undergoing cancer treatment and shows fewer side effects. Proton therapy has benefits over conventional therapy in the treatment of several common cancers, including cancer in children, lung cancer and others.

Conference Highlights

ESTRO 29 will see myriad workshops and lectures taking place for the over 5,000 participants. The results of more than 50 randomised clinical trials will be unveiled at the conference – results that many predict will signal the future direction of oncology and radiotherapy, providing a high level of evidence for defining future therapeutic guidelines. Seminars will also focus on the most pressing disease issues, including breast, lung, digestive, head and neck and prostate cancer therapy, giving first hand information on the latest developments. Importantly, representatives from Spanish patient associations will play a significant role in the conference, highlighting issues relating to patient care, new technology and recent developments in oncology.

'Personalised cancer therapy is becoming more and more a reality today, offering a promising future for cancer patients with more choices for non-invasive approaches to the treatment of the disease. In fact, radiotherapy has gradually challenged surgery for the long-term control of many tumours of the head-and-neck, cervix, prostate and bladder,' said Prof Bourhis. 'The latest advances in this field also show fewer side effects and higher quality of life in patients during treatment and when cured.'

Radiotherapy combating two of the most common cancers

In the case of breast cancer, radiotherapy, combined with extensive risk-adapted surgery, can significantly reduce the risk of local and regional recurrences. In fact, in patients who have a high risk of recurrence, a positive influence on overall survival has been shown when appropriate radiotherapy techniques are used. Professor John Yarnold, Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, Sutton, UK, pointed out a multi-faceted approach to combating cancer saying, 'The best results that we can offer to our breast cancer patients, such as quality of life, cosmetic results and survival can be obtained by a multidisciplinary and patient-orientated approach.'

Experts are also convinced that radiotherapy plays an important role in the management of prostate cancer. 'Refinements in various radiation techniques, dose escalation and hormone therapy have already shown an improved treatment outcome in selected group of patients,' said Professor Ferran Guedea, Head of the department of Radiation Oncology – Institut Catala d'Oncologia, Barcelona, Spain.

What the future holds

Technological developments over the past decade have led to a revolution in the accuracy of delivering radiation therapy. 'We are already seeing a major clinical benefit of these new technologies in the reduction of toxicity, and increased quality of life for the patient. New areas of research will continue to shape the future, including the identification of new molecular pathways involved in radiation response, molecularly targeted radio oncology and the coming revolution of oncology imaging. Furthermore, proton and ion beam therapy are becoming more widely available and will certainly have an impact on the future of radiation oncology,' said Prof Bourhis.