Public Release: 

Radiation Therapy Helps Children Survive Cancer

American Roentgen Ray Society

international study reports that children with some difficult to treat tumors can benefit from radiation therapy.

The results were presented October 20 at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's (ASTRO) annual meeting in Orlando, FL.

This is the second in a series of studies conducted by the International Society for Pediatric Oncology (SIOP).

Presenting the results was Dr. Jean-Lewis Habrand, professor of radiation oncology at the University of Paris, France.

The study focused on young children (mean ages 5-8 years) who had soft tissue sarcomas that had not responded well to chemotherapy, which is becoming the standard treatment for cancer in children, Dr. Habrand said. A soft tissue sarcoma is a malignant tumor located in the body's soft tissue, such as muscle, ligaments or tendons. It can appear anywhere in the body.

Of the 308 children participating in the study, 51% of those had tumors in the head and neck area, Dr. Habrand said. Without aggressive treatment for these tumors, which can be very fast growing, the chances of survival are poor. Because radiation therapy can have some significant side effects in children, particularly in this area, its indications should be carefully weighed, Dr. Habrand said. Among the possible side effects are poor bone and tissue growth, learning disabilities and psychological disorders.

However, this study indicates that despite such problems, radiation therapy combined with chemotherapy and sometimes surgery remains the best chance for immediate cure in 40 percent of children with soft tissue sarcomas.

The only disappointing result comes from a subgroup of children in which a modification in the means of delivering radiation failed to improve the outcome and was less well tolerated, according to Dr. Habrand.

Even though this study focused on cases where the patient's prognosis was poor, it showed that almost ¾ of these patients could be cured, approximately 3 times the number that was observed 15 years ago, Dr. Habrand said.

The American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology (ASTRO) is the largest radiation oncology society in the world, with some 4,000 members. As a leading organization in radiation oncology, biology and physics, the society's goals are to advance the scientific basis of radiation therapy and to extend the benefits of radiation therapy to those with cancer.

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