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A relatively new type of radiation therapy — stereotactic body radiation therapy — appears to rid patients with early-stage lung cancer cells better than conventional radiotherapy may also increase a lung cancer patient’s life expectancy. Those were the findings of a nationwide study published last year in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Most patients think surgery is their only choice for treatment of cancer, but based on the findings of this and earlier studies, they now may have another choice. The University of Kentucky’s Markey Cancer Center is one of a handful of centers nationwide participating in several clinical trials of this emerging form of treatment. These research trials are for patients with small, localized lung cancers — cancer that has not spread. They should also be either basically healthy besides having cancer and therefore a good candidate for surgery or have health issues that place them at a high risk for surgery. Markey is also the only center in the country studying the use of this therapy on patients who have the most common stage of lung cancer and most advanced stage of cancer — Stage III. These patients first undergo the standard five to six weeks of radiation treatment. They then get two intense rounds of stereotactic body radiation therapy. The stereotactic body radiation therapy treatments vary but generally are given daily over one to five days. What we are learning is helping us fine-tune treatment based on the excellent results we have already seen. Side effects from this non-invasive treatment with radiation vary depending on the size and location of the cancer, but patients have very few problems generally. Clinical research into effective new treatments such as stereotactic body radiation therapy is important as we work to help patients live longer and with a high quality of life after being diagnosed with lung cancer. For more information: Go to http://markey.uky.edu/StudySearch or http://ukhealthcare.uky.edu/Markey/patients. Dr. Ronald McGarry is a pioneer in the use of noninvasive stereotactic body radiation therapy for the treatment of inoperable lung cancer. He is clinical professor of medicine and vice chair of research in Radiation Medicine in the UK College of Medicine.
Article By Dr. Ronald McGarry Special to the Herald-Leader
This column appeared in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Sunday, Feb. 6 2012.