CHEST: Stereotactic radiosurgery promising for early-stage lung cancer

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Stereotactic radiosurgery is a treatment option for patients with early-stage, non-small cell lung cancer who are not able to undergo surgery, according to a study presented Wednesday at the American College of Chest Physicians' (ACCP) CHEST meeting in San Diego.

Researchers from Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C. concluded that such treatment leads to a 100 percent overall survival rate after three years in patients with good lung function before treatment.

According to the researchers, the surgical removal of the affected lobes in patients with small tumors characterized as early stage disease is sometimes not an option because of other pre-existing medical conditions such as emphysema or heart disease.

"What we discovered is a very promising option that may be relevant for other stage 1 patients,” said the study's lead author, Brian T. Collins, MD, a radiation oncologist with the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown.

Stereotactic radiosurgery uses a small linear particle accelerator to administer radiation in a noninvasive procedure.

The investigators treated 24 patients as part of the study. They measured each patient's ability to exhale forcefully as "forced expiratory volume in 1 second” (FEV1) to grade the severity of a patient’s chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

At an average follow up of 36 months, the overall survival for all patients was 79 percent with five deaths occurring due to progressive lung dysfunction. Those patients with a better FEV1 had a survival rate of 100 percent, while thoses patients with poorer lung function had a survival rate of 30 percent.

"This information is important for the doctor and patient when making treatment decisions," said Collins. "In treating someone with poor lung function, it would seem prudent to modify the treatment dose in order to reduce further damage to the lungs that stereotactic radiosurgery causes."

"More follow up with these patients is planned to see how [the patients] progress five years after treatment," said Collins.

Accuray, the manufacturer of the stereotactic surgery device CyberKnife, funded the study.