Public Release: 

Stereotactic body radiation therapy conference

Therapy showing great promise for treatment of difficult cancers

Indiana University

As leaders in the advancement of stereotactic body radiation therapy, Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Radiation Oncology will host an international conference for physicians and researchers. The third annual Conference on Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy will be May 21-23 at the Adam's Mark Hotel and Suites, 120 W. Market.

The latest options with stereotactic radiation treatments will be presented, including information on a promising lung cancer trial that has received National Institutes of Health funding.

Robert D. Timmerman, M.D., associate professor of radiation oncology at IU, is the principal investigator of the clinical trial, which will treat 35 patients at nine medical centers in the United States and Canada. The centers are members of the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group. This is the third of a series of trials and the first to be conducted nationwide; the first two phases of the study were conducted only at the IU School of Medicine.

This study will treat early-stage non-small cell lung cancer patients with three-dimensional imaging and high doses of radiation to more precisely target and kill cancer cells in the lung. The procedure uses a three dimension computer-generated grid system to more precisely map the location where therapy is directed.

The painless, minimally invasive therapy uses stereotactic body mapping made possible with specially designed equipment that accounts for natural body motion (including breathings) to ensure the precision of radiation beams aimed at the tumor.

The results of the initial phase of the study were published in the November 2003 journal Chest. Forty-seven patients were treated and Dr. Timmerman and his colleagues reported that high doses of radiation were tolerated and 87 percent of those treated had a positive tumor response.

The second phase of the trial is almost complete and results will be reported by IU School of Medicine researchers. The initial two phases enrolled 117 patients, making the study the largest prospective clinical trial of stereotactic body radiation therapy for medically inoperable Stage I lung cancer.

"Initial results for the second phase of the study are very encouraging," said Dr. Timmerman. "We have seen very few recurrences of the cancer. In the phase one portion of the trial we had higher rates of local recurrence at the lower doses of radiation and as the doses increased the recurrence rates dramatically decreased."

Patients enrolled in the second phase were treated with biologically more potent doses than conventionally used but patients received only three outpatient treatments compared to 30-35 treatments administered for standard therapy.

Recruitment for the nationwide trial will begin later this summer. Individuals interested in more information about treatments available at IU should contact Tia Whitford at 317-274-1189.

Each of the Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy conferences has been organized by Ronald McGarry, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of clinical radiation oncology at IU, who said about 120 physicians and researchers will attend. Stereotactic therapy has a limited number of practitioners and researchers and the IU Department of Radiation Oncology is known as an international leader in the sub-specialty, said Dr. McGarry.

Symposium participants from as far away as Japan will explore the rationale for radiation in the treatment of cancers and discuss new technologies and treatment data.

"Stereotactic therapy is showing great promise for the treatment of difficult cancers such as lung, liver and the spine," said Dr. McGarry. "The specialty is relatively young and is proving to be a viable alternative to conventional surgery and another treatment option for patients who are not good candidates for surgery."


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