Standard treatment right now for these patients is conventional radiation treatment given every weekday for six weeks, or simply observation with supportive care.
In addition to a high mortality rate, only 30 to 40 percent of these patients see their tumors controlled, meaning they don't grow. Some 8,000 to 10,000 patients in this group are diagnosed each year in the United States, Timmerman said.
"Stereotactic body radiation therapy uses numerous small beams that converge on the target. Each beam is fairly weak [although the overall effect is strong] so there's not as much entry damage and each beam, being very small, has to be guided very carefully with image guidance," Timmerman explained.
This study involved 55 patients with inoperable early-stage non-small cell lung cancer, the most common type of lung cancer. Individual tumors were small with most measuring 3 centimeters or less.
Treatment involved 20- to 60-minute sessions one to five times a day or every other day. The entire course of therapy lasted only one-and-a-half to two weeks.
Three years after treatment, almost 98 percent of primary tumors were controlled; local control (the primary tumor and the lobe) was close to 91 percent; and the local-plus-regional control rate was just over 87 percent. This was about double the rate seen with conventional radiotherapy.
Just over 48 percent of participants made it to the three-year mark without a recurrence of their disease.
Disappointingly, 11 patients (22.1 percent) did develop distant metastases, eight of them within two years. The authors speculated that these patients already had metastases that were not detected at the time of diagnosis. But the rate of these recurrences w
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