Targeted radiation found effective in treating aggressive brain cancer

Brain cancer patients who receive radiation targeted on their tumors rather than on a broader part of the brain aren’t likely to experience any greater recurrence of the disease than patients who have traditional therapy, a new study found.

The targeted therapy also spares the healthy tissue adjacent to aggressive tumors called glioblastoma from being damaged and reduces the chance of losing brain function.

The study, which was conducted at Wake Forest University’s Baptist Medical Center and published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Oncology, based its findings on researchers’ review of medical records of 161 people who were treated for the brain cancer in the last 10 years.

Glioblastoma is one of the most aggressive forms of brain cancer, which traditionally calls for radiation to treat the tumor as well as 10 to 20 millimeters of tissue adjacent to the tumor in order to improve the patient’s outcome.

The findings of the study are likely to influence treatment plans for the disease, which also include surgery and chemotherapy.

“For patients with glioblastoma, we now know we can safely and effectively treat them with smaller radiation fields to spare the rest of their normal brain,” said Michael Chan, M.D., an assistant professor of radiation oncology at the university medical center. “We are the first to show definitively that people with smaller margins [areas of treatment] don’t do any worse than those with larger margins.”

By reducing the amount of radiation used in the treatment, he said the exhaustion and nausea that patients experience after radiation is also reduced. As a result, the patient’s quality of life improves, although long-term survival rates do not appear to be changed by the targeted therapy.

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