Targeted radiation therapy safe, effective treatment for elderly with pancreatic cancer

September 24, 2013

A highly targeted cancer radiation therapy may offer a safe and effective treatment option for elderly pancreatic cancer patients unable to undergo surgery or combined chemotherapy and radiation therapy, according to researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Called stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), the study finds patients lived, on average, six to seven months longer following treatment with minimal side-effects even when they had other severe comorbidities such as (COPD), and diabetes.

Two of the patients in the study lived nearly two years.

"Elderly individuals, those ages 75 and older, account for approximately 40 percent of patients diagnosed with ," says study lead author Raphael Yechieli, M.D., with the Department of Radiation Oncology at Henry Ford Hospital.

"These patients are too ill to receive any other treatment, but with stereotactic body we're able to deliver a safe and effective treatment in two weeks that can provide them with a substantial quality of life with minimal side effects."

The study was presented at the 55nd annual American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) meeting in Atlanta.

In 2013, there will be an estimated 45,220 new cases of pancreatic cancer, and approximately 38,460 will die from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute. Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include smoking, diabetes, obesity, family history of the disease and pancreatitis. Most people diagnosed with the disease are older than 65.

Surgery is the only known cure for resectable pancreatic cancer, where the cancer is localized to the and hasn't spread. It is estimated that only 20 percent of pancreatic cancer patients have their tumors present with localized disease amendable to surgical removal.

A select number of those patients, however, are not candidates for surgery due to having other co-morbidities such as COPD, heart disease and diabetes. This leaves only chemotherapy and radiation, or a combination of the two, available for treatment.

But for a large portion of elderly patients with localized pancreatic cancer even chemotherapy and radiation therapy are not options.

The Henry Ford study looked to determine if SBRT – a method of giving radiation that can be highly targeted to the tumor, sparing the normal tissue around it – was a viable option for this group of patients. SBRT provides a higher dose of radiation, meaning patients have fewer treatments. In this case, treatment averaged two weeks.

The study included 20 patients with a median age of 83, all of whom were medically unable to tolerate surgery or combined chemo-radiation therapy. The majority of patients in the study (90 percent) received SBRT treatment at the time of diagnosis.

Seven patients reported side-effects from treatment: nausea, vomiting and fatigue.

Among the patients: 13 had a recurrence of cancer; nine had cancer spread from the original tumor to distant organs or distant lymph nodes.

Median overall survival was 6.7 months, and median recurrence-free survival was 8.1 months. At six months post-treatment, 61 percent of patients were alive; two patients in the study survived nearly two years.

"National trends tell us that very few patients over the age of 75 are getting any treatment at all for pancreatic cancer due to comorbidity risks," notes Dr. Yechieli. "So we want to push the envelope to give them a that, while not a cure, is short, effective and safe, and has the potential to give them a good quality of life."

The next step in this research, Dr. Yechieli says, is to closely follow after SBRT and get their direct feedback to measure post-treatment quality of life.

Explore further: SBRT provides better outcomes than surgery for cancer patients with common lung disease

Related Stories

SBRT provides better outcomes than surgery for cancer patients with common lung disease

February 16, 2012
Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) provides better overall survival rates than surgery for lung cancer patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a disease commonly associated with lung cancer, ...

Delaying radiation therapy after hysterectomy ups risk of uterine cancer recurrence

October 30, 2012
Waiting too long after a hysterectomy to begin radiation therapy may increase the risk of uterine cancer recurrence, according to a new study from researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Carbon ion radiotherapy safe and effective for treating inoperable spinal tumors

August 12, 2013
A new analysis has found that a type of radiation therapy called carbon ion radiotherapy can control cancer growth and prolong survival in patients with spinal tumors. Published early online in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal ...

Adult cancer patients younger than 50 with limited brain mets have improved OS after SRS alone

September 23, 2013
When treated with stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS), that is not combined with whole brain radiotherapy (WBRT), adult brain cancer patients who were 50 years old and younger were found to have improved survival, according to ...

Radiopeptide therapy improves survival outcomes for neuroendocrine cancer patients

June 11, 2013
Peptide-receptor radionuclide therapy (PRRT) has been a subject of growing research on neuroendocrine tumors, which take up residence in a variety of organs replete with nerve cells that respond to hormone signaling. A countrywide ...

Recommended for you

No dye: Cancer patients' gray hair darkened on immune drugs

July 21, 2017
Cancer patients' gray hair unexpectedly turned youthfully dark while taking novel drugs, and it has doctors scratching their heads.

Shooting the achilles heel of nervous system cancers

July 20, 2017
Virtually all cancer treatments used today also damage normal cells, causing the toxic side effects associated with cancer treatment. A cooperative research team led by researchers at Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center ...

Molecular changes with age in normal breast tissue are linked to cancer-related changes

July 20, 2017
Several known factors are associated with a higher risk of breast cancer including increasing age, being overweight after menopause, alcohol intake, and family history. However, the underlying biologic mechanisms through ...

Immune-cell numbers predict response to combination immunotherapy in melanoma

July 20, 2017
Whether a melanoma patient will better respond to a single immunotherapy drug or two in combination depends on the abundance of certain white blood cells within their tumors, according to a new study conducted by UC San Francisco ...

Discovery could lead to better results for patients undergoing radiation

July 19, 2017
More than half of cancer patients undergo radiotherapy, in which high doses of radiation are aimed at diseased tissue to kill cancer cells. But due to a phenomenon known as radiation-induced bystander effect (RIBE), in which ...

Definitive genomic study reveals alterations driving most medulloblastoma brain tumors

July 19, 2017
The most comprehensive analysis yet of medulloblastoma has identified genomic changes responsible for more than 75 percent of the brain tumors, including two new suspected cancer genes that were found exclusively in the least ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.