Study Suggests a Role for Radiotherapy for Extending the Lives of Pancreatic Cancer Patients

According to research presented at the 36th annual European Society for Radiotherapy & Oncology (ESTRO) conference, patients with early stage pancreatic cancer could be given longer to live if they receive radiotherapy at a high enough dose.

Considering that pancreatic cancer affects around 338,000 people worldwide annually, is notoriously difficult to treat and has one of the lowest survival rates of any type of cancer, this newly discovered research is extremely good news.

For the study, 514 patients from Europe and the U.S., who were diagnosed when their tumors had not spread and could be removed by surgery, were analyzed. Following surgery, all patients were treated with chemotherapy combined with radiotherapy, divided into four groups according the dose of radiation they received, and followed for an average of 20 months.

The results suggested the higher the dose, the longer the patient lived. Patients who received a dose less than 45 Gy had an average survival of 13 months, patients with a dose in the range of 45 to less than 50 Gy had an average survival of 21 months. For the next group with a dose range of 50 to less than 55 Gy, average survival was 22 months and for the group with the highest doses of 55 Gy or more, average survival was 28 months.

Dr. Francesco Cellini, who presented the research said, “Previous research has not shown a benefit for treating pancreatic cancer with radiotherapy, suggesting that these tumors are somehow resistant to radiation, but this study suggests the situation is more nuanced. We have found that the higher the dose, the longer the patient is likely to survive. This may indicate that the doses were simply not high enough in previous research. The pattern of increasing survival in this study suggests that tumors of the pancreas are not resistant to radiation, they just need to be tackled with an adequate dose. Radiotherapy has benefitted from a number of technological improvements over recent years, including CyberKnife, and it is becoming easier to give higher doses that are targeted to the tumor area. This study suggests radiotherapy should be considered for patients with early stage pancreatic cancer. It may also be worthwhile to investigate whether current radiotherapy techniques could also bring survival benefits to patients with more advanced tumors.”

New Jersey CyberKnife treats pancreatic tumors with stereotactic radiosurgery using the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System.  CyberKnife gives high doses of radiation to the tumor with sub-millimeter accuracy.  Treatments are painless, require no anesthesia or hospital stay, and there is little to no recovery time.  For more information on CyberKnife technology, or to make an appointment with New Jersey CyberKnife, please click here.