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Study Finds Variations in Doses of Radiation Therapy
Date:2/26/2008

Researchers call for universal standards for new technology called IMRT

TUESDAY, Feb. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Procedures to carry out a highly refined, complex radiation treatment for killing tumors and sparing healthy tissue may vary more widely from one medical center to the next than previously thought, a new study suggests.

"This study raises a very large and serious problem for the radiation oncology community because you cannot compare doses and hence clinical outcome between treatment centers," said study lead author Indra J. Das, a professor of radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Das and his co-authors are calling for national and international guidelines for the use of so-called intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT). Their study findings are published online in the Feb. 26 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Dr. Candice Aitken, assistant professor of radiation oncology at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, N,H., agreed, saying the "point of the article is that we need to come up with methods of reporting doses so that we can interpret studies performed at different institutions better."

IMRT is the latest development in the field of radiation oncology. It uses very small beams of radiation ("beamlets"), each with a controlled radiation intensity, aimed at a tumor from many angles. The beams can change shape hundreds of times during any given treatment. The idea is to spare healthy tissue as much as possible while still delivering the needed dose to malignant tissue, according to the Mayo Clinic.

"Some people call it 'dose painting,' where you can give high doses to certain regions depending on what's clinically needed," Aitken explained. "Instead of a uniform field, you can vary intensity pixel by pixel... If you have a brain tumor that sits next to the optic nerve, IMRT can help us sculpt the dose around an odd-shaped tumor
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