Sunday 25 August 2019

New life-extending treatment discovered for patients with 'incurable' cancer

Stock photo
Stock photo

Tom Eden

Cancer patients with previously incurable tumours have been given hope by a life-extending treatment which can double the length of time a person can live cancer-free.

The new worldwide medical trial, involving the Beatson cancer centre in Glasgow, has discovered a high-precision radiation treatment which can extend a patient's lifespan by more than a year.

Patients diagnosed with metastatic tumours - cancer which had spread to other parts of the body - were thought to be incurable, but researchers on the clinical trial have found that the aggressive radiation therapy can greatly increase life expectancy.

Hailing the research as a "game-changer", scientists gave almost 100 cancer patients from Scotland, Canada, the Netherlands and Australia "substantially higher doses of radiation" to areas where their cancerous tumours had spread.

Patients receiving the treatment, known as stereotactic ablative radiotherapy, lived 13 months longer on average.

Dr Stephen Harrow, a National Research Scotland fellow at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre and co-author on the study, said: "We are very excited about these results and I truly believe it could be a game-changer for many.

"Traditionally when a cancer has spread to other organs other than the original site of the disease patients were considered incurable.

"However there is a theory called the oligometastatic theory - that if a patient only has a few spots of cancer returning, those spots could be killed with radiation or with surgery to improve their survival. But this has never been shown in a randomised trial before now."

The 99 patients enrolled on the trial had each previously been treated for cancer which had returned with tumours appearing in as many as five different places

The study, published in the Lancet, was developed by clinician-scientist Dr David Palma at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and used a number of Scottish cancer patients.

Dr Harrow added: "It has been a great opportunity for Scottish patients to take part in this ground-breaking clinical trial and now we've been able to show that if, indeed, a patient's cancer has spread to only a few spots, those tumours can be targeted with high-dose radiation which has been shown to increase survival by a median of 13 months."

Albert Anderson, 83 from Dunure in Ayrshire, was diagnosed seven years ago with a cancerous lesion in his windpipe, which was followed three years later with two small tumours in his lung.

After undergoing treatment as part of the study, Mr Anderson said: "Thanks to the trial, my cancer has been completely eradicated.

"My treatment has been excellent, just excellent. I am still attending Dr Harrow's clinic: firstly every three months and then every six. They now only need to see me back once a year which is good and I feel fine.

"I hope the treatment this trial brings become normal for everyone and brings hope to those with secondary cancers."

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