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Winning the War on Cancer: The Critical Role of Radiation Oncology
Date:1/28/2009

Radiation Oncology Community Gathers with House Cancer Caucus on Capitol Hill to Raise Awareness of Benefits of Targeted Radiation to Treat, Cure Cancer

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A group of radiation oncology providers, manufacturers and patient groups today gathered to raise awareness about one of the least understood cancer treatments: radiation therapy. Every year, more than 1 million cancer patients receive radiation treatment. In a patient's personal war against cancer, new and improved technologies are aiding the fight by allowing more targeted radiation to cure cancer, control the growth of cancer or relieve pain and other cancer symptoms.

The Capitol Hill briefing, hosted in coordination with the House Cancer Caucus, featured Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), a breast cancer survivor who was treated with radiation therapy, and Rep. Parker Griffith (D-AL), who this month became the first radiation oncologist sworn into Congress.

"As far as cancer treatments go, radiation therapy is very patient-friendly because it allows men and women to get necessary care while maintaining a normal family life and continuing to work. That's a feature that cannot be understated when American families are facing difficult financial times," said Rep. Myrick. Myrick was joined by her own radiation oncologist, Dr. Robert Fraser of North Carolina, and expressed her gratitude to him and his thousands of colleagues "for their life-saving work for cancer patients."

Radiation treatment has been used to treat cancer patients for more than 100 years, yet new technology and improved technique allow radiation oncologists to better target radiation and more effectively eliminate the cancer cells while protecting healthy cells. Thanks to remarkable advances in radiation oncology, doctors can, for instance, treat breast cancer without removing the breast and treat brain tumors without having to open a person's skull.

"I've witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of cancer on individuals and families. But I've also seen remarkable advances in science and technology, particularly in the cutting-edge field of radiation oncology, that are helping people with cancer live longer and even be cured of their disease," said radiation oncologist and U.S. Representative Griffith. "I hope patients, physicians, and my colleagues in Congress recognize the invaluable role that targeted radiation therapy is playing in the life and death struggle against cancer."

Reps. Myrick and Griffith were joined by Dr. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the American Cancer Society (ACS), who spoke of the many benefits radiation treatment provides to cancer patients. In addition, Dr. C. Norman Coleman, Associate Director of the Radiation Research Program of the National Cancer Institute, demonstrated how investments in cancer research and cutting edge technology are increasing the efficacy of radiation treatment, while minimizing side effects.

Recently, cancer researchers have documented, for the first time ever, that modern therapeutic advances are contributing to make patients less likely to die from cancer. Investments in cancer research and breakthroughs in radiation oncology are a very important part of this equation. With new technologies, radiation oncologists can deliver less radiation to the body and reduce side effects, at the same time delivering more radiation to the cancer itself to better ensure a cure.

Despite being a highly effective treatment, radiation oncology is one of the least understood cancer therapies by the public, physicians, and policymakers. For instance, radiation oncology often is confused with diagnostic radiology. That's because radiation treatment beams are invisible and painless, much like what a patient would experience with a diagnostic X-ray. However, while diagnostic X-rays use a low-dose of radiation to view inside the body, radiation treatment delivers a targeted high dose of radiation to kill tumors. With modern approaches, cancer cells are killed with reduced side effects.

"Thanks to exciting developments in radiation oncology, many of my patients avoid radical surgery and often emerge from treatment with their normal function and quality of life preserved. The promise of increased cure rates with fewer side effects is enormously important to these patients, their families, and society," said Dr. Louis Harrison, a nationally recognized oncologist and immediate past chair of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) who spoke at today's event.

The briefing was cohosted by ASTRO, American College of Radiation Oncology (ACRO), 21st Century Oncology, US Oncology, Vantage Oncology, and Varian Medical Systems.


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SOURCE US Oncology
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