Researchers at the University of California, Irvine and the Lausanne University Hospital of the University of Luassanne (CHUV/UNIL) have succeeded in treating certain forms of cancer without the typical side effects. The study was published in the English language journal “Clinical Cancer Research”.
A special new radiation therapy could make it possible to eliminate tumors without the typical unpleasant side effects. The treatment of cancer without side effects thus seems to be within reach.
In their study, the researchers used an ultra-high dose rate of radiation therapy to eliminate brain tumors in mice, thereby avoiding severe side effects normally caused by irradiation of the skull. In conventional radiation therapy, the tumor and tissue are each irradiated for several minutes. However, so-called FLASH radiation therapy (FLASH-RT) allows the same radiation dose to be delivered in only tenths of a second.
The increased speed of treatment eliminates many of the toxicities that normally plague people with cancer long after radiation treatment, explain the researchers. This faster treatment significantly reduces side effects such as inflammation and cognitive impairment.
Treat brain tumors without side effects?
As with traditional radiation therapy, the dose was fractionated by the research group or distributed over several sessions. The researchers reported that with the same total radiation dose, which was administered at faster dose rates, brain tumors could be removed just as effectively as with the conventional method.
“It appears that this treatment will be of general benefit for most types of cancer,” study author Professor Charles Limoli of the University of California said in a press release. Treating cancer without debilitating side effects has long been a major goal of oncology.
Although this research work focused on the brain, FLASH-RT has also been used to treat lung, skin and colon cancer, preventing many radiation-induced complications, the experts report. The treatment has been successful in several additional studies in humans and several animal species, including fish, mice, pigs and cats.
After verifying that this method actually works, the researchers hope that in the future devices will be developed all over the world that will make the FLASH technology applicable in clinics. There is already a device waiting for approval in the USA and Europe. This device is to be used in two clinical studies from the beginning of next year, the team explains.
Breakthrough in cancer treatment achieved
In the meantime, researchers are investigating the mechanisms behind the beneficial effects of FLASH-RT to better understand how the technology works exactly. According to Professor Limoli, there has been nothing more exciting in the field of radiation science in the last 30 or 40 years than the results now being discovered. (as)
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