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Combining radiation therapy, chemotherapy safely treats head and neck cancer patients
Date:11/3/2010

SAN DIEGO, Nov. 3 Stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), a radiation therapy procedure pioneered at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) that precisely delivers a large dose of radiation to tumors, may effectively control and treat head and neck cancers when combined with the chemotherapy Cetuximab, according to researchers from UPCI. The results of the research will be presented today at the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) annual meeting in San Diego.

The study, led by Dwight E. Heron, M.D., professor of otolaryngology and vice chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, enrolled 24 patients with recurrent head and neck cancers who had previously undergone radiation therapy treatment. Patients received Cetuximab a week before and during the two-week course of SBRT. The study showed that the regimen is a safe treatment option and may improve overall patient survival rates.

According to Dr. Heron, the study is important because surgical treatments for many patients with recurrent, locally advanced head and neck cancers are frequently limited, while other treatments either fail to adequately control the disease progression or are too toxic for patients to manage.

"While therapies for head and neck cancers have improved over the years, too many patients suffer relapses," said Dr. Heron. "When surgery and certain combinations of chemotherapy and radiation therapy are deemed either high risk or too toxic as treatment options, very specialized radiation therapy strategies are frequently considered. Unfortunately, conventional radiation therapy, including intensity-modulated radiation therapy, often has debilitating side effects for this subset of patients, and we are often faced with the challenge of how to treat their cancers aggressively while limiting the risk of side effects."

For this study, Dr. Heron and his team combined Cetuximab, whi
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Contact: Courtney McCrimmon
McCrimmonCP@upmc.edu
412-715-8894
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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