Modulated radiotherapy benefits rectal cancer patients

16 Jun 2008

Modulated radiotherapy cuts treatment side effects for cancer of the rectum

Treatment using conventional radiotherapy and chemotherapy simultaneously causes about a 30% enteritis rate (inflammation of the intestine). However in a new study published in the “International Journal of Radiation Oncology-Biology-Physics” researchers found that the application of modulated radiotherapy greatly reduces the rate of enteritis.

Modulated radiotherapy applies the radiation to the tumour and risk areas while minimising irradiation to healthy tissue. This radiotherapy procedure involves the administration of higher daily doses of radiation but with a total dose equivalent to conventional ones. In this way the treatment time is cut by 30%, without a rise in side effects and with very high rates of pathological response.

Intensity-Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) is a radiotherapy technique in which the administration of the radiation doses for the patient is effected by means of a lineal accelerator equipped with a system of multilaminas. Depending on the characteristics of the region that has to be irradiated the planning system is capable of adapting high radiation doses to the shape of the tumour enabling adjustments to be made to the area. The main goal in administering modulated radiotherapy lies in excluding the greatest possible proportion of healthy tissue from the field of radiation, mainly the intestines, bladder and the healthy section of the rectum.

To date the application of this procedure had been limited to tumours located in the head, neck and prostate gland. The research is the first published giving clinical results from the application of preoperational modulated radiotherapy in tumours of the rectum and was led by a team of doctors at the University Hospital of Navarra.  Doctor José Javier Aristu specialist at the Oncological Radiology Service at the Hospital explains  “This technique had been used in more confined tumours more limited and smaller. We have now also begun to apply it to tumours of the rectum given that the conventional treatment, combining chemotherapy and radiotherapy, may cause high levels of toxicity”.

This research initially undertaken with 20 patients with cancer of the rectum is in study phase I-II the main purpose of which is to find the highest dose that can be applied using modulated radiotherapy in combination with chemotherapy. 

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