Two Studies Looking At How To Reduce Radiotherapy Side Effects

Dr Di Gilson, member of the National Cancer Research Institute’s Scientific Committee for the Conference, said: “Radiotherapy is a cornerstone of successful cancer treatment for thousands of patients. Unfortunately some patients who have radiotherapy will suffer long term side effects and for a minority these can be irreversible, progressive and debilitating”.

As survival rates for cancer continue to increase, it is imperative to identify treatments that reduce side effects in order to ensure a better quality of life for patients. Fortunately, researchers at The Institute of Cancer, London may have found a method called big data analytics that does just that!

Big data analysis is a new technique that allows huge amounts of different information including: medical history, genetics, radiotherapy dose, and reported side effects to be combined and analysed at once.

By analysing big data which highlights information that might predict a patient’s sensitivity to the side effects of prostate radiotherapy, researchers and physicians will be able to create personalised radiotherapy treatment for prostate cancer. In particular, this data analysis will draw attention to specific genetic characteristics such as SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) that can predict whether  a patient will suffer rectal bleeding.

With further testing and validation, Dr Navita Somaiah, co-lead researcher at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, said: “We hope that our method can be used to personalise radiotherapy plans for patients based on this risk, improving the chances of a cure and also minimising the side effects suffered”.

 Eventually, this method could also be applied to many other forms of cancer that are treated with radiotherapy. Another research study looked at whether it would be possible to adjust radiotherapy dosage according to how sensitive a patient might be to side effects because the biggest flaw of radiotherapy treatment at the moment is that while some men with prostate cancer are receiving too much and suffering side effects, other men are being given too little which compromises their chances of a successful treatment.

In September 2017, a study was carried out by researchers from the Institute of Cancer Research and The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust testing high-precision radiotherapy on patients with prostate cancer. Researchers within this study wanted to test whether they could safely target cancer cells without damaging nearby healthy cells and reduce treatment side effects. Researchers tested the high-tech radiotherapy, called pelvic lymph node intensity modulated radiation therapy (PLN- IMRT), on 447 men with locally advanced disease and monitored the results over the course of 10 years. This treatment method can modify the shape and strength of its beams to target cancerous cells more effectively by adjusting the dosage in order to reduce the side effects on the bladder and bowels. Each of the 447 men received radiotherapy to the prostate as well as to the prostate lymph nodes in one of five different dosage patterns.

The study indicated that five years after receiving treatment, up to 71% of patients were alive and disease-free. Only 8-16% of patients experienced bowel or bladder complications. While these results appear very promising, they can only be treated as preliminary findings for now. The goal of this study was to investigate whether this treatment approach is safe and to get a sense of treatment doses that may be suitable for assessment in further trials.

For more information, on the big data analysis article click here and the high-precision radiotherapy study click here

Source Maggies at Cancerkin