For patients with lung cancer, removing the tumor is often the first step in treatment. But taking out a tumor can mean removing all or part of a lung. And that “is a big deal” says Patrick Moran, MD, a Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers oncologist. For some patients, including the elderly or those with other medical conditions, lung surgery is too big a deal. Now, oncologists at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers have a new option for those patients: stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT).
Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SRBT) provides intense, non-invasive lung cancer therapy
SBRT allows oncologists to target tumors directly, which makes it possible to safely deliver larger doses of radiation so fewer treatments are needed. “It delivers an intense beam over just a few treatments to a lung tumor. It’s very effective and saves those patients from the rigors of thoracic (chest) surgery,” Moran says.
“With SBRT, we can often complete treatment in one to five sessions,” he says, comparing that to the typical 30 treatments over six weeks with standard radiation therapy. With SBRT, multiple, intense beams are aimed at the tumor from different angles, while the patient lies in a body frame designed to reduce the movement of the lung tumor during breathing. Like other forms of external radiation, the treatment itself is painless, and has few, if any, side effects, Moran says.
SBRT technology has been evolving over the past decade, and has increasingly become an option for lung cancer patients.
According to the American Cancer Society, “Early results with SBRT for smaller lung tumors have been very promising, and it seems to have a low risk of complications.” It also is being studied for tumors that have spread to other parts of the body, such as the bones or liver.
Although removing the lung cancer tumor remains the preferred treatment for patients who can tolerate surgery, Moran says, SBRT is being studied in trials to see whether it might offer advantages even to otherwise healthy patients who are candidates for surgery.