Lung cancer patients for whom surgery is not an option can turn for help to a high-tech type of radiation treatment. Named the "stereotactic body radiation therapy", SBRT is "highly effective" in treating early-stage lung cancer.
This therapy uses very large doses of high-energy radiation (x-rays), which are aimed directly at tumours with great precision and accuracy, thus sparing the surrounding, healthy tissue from damage.
"I think of this as 'lung-sparing' treatment, in which many patients with early-stage lung cancer can have effective treatment in as few as three treatment sessions with a low risk of side effects," said Dr. Ronald McGarry, clinical associate professor and vice chairman of radiation medicine at the UK College of Medicine.
"The data we are reporting now show that long-term control of these localized cancers is possible," he added.
During the study, the researchers looked at 70 medically inoperable patients at Indiana University.
The patients, most of whom had other significant health problems, median survival was 32.4 months, which compares favourably to the established median survival of only about nine months for untreated early-stage lung cancer.
Nearly 90 percent of patients had no evidence their cancer returned in the lung.
"Lung cancer is our number one cancer killer and non-invasive treatment for those patients with severe heart and lung disease opens new opportunities to help them," said McGarry.
The study appears in The International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics.