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Combination therapy less toxic for cancer patients

22 September 2014

Combination therapy less toxic for cancer patients

Patients with a recurrence of head and neck cancer who have previously received radiation treatment can be treated more quickly, safely and with fewer side effects with high doses of targeted radiation known as Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SRBT) in combination with a drug that also targets cancerous tumours, researchers have found.

SRBT uses concentrated radiation beams in high doses to destroy tumours in difficult or hard-to-reach areas. The treatment is non-invasive and minimises damage to surrounding healthy tissue and organs.

Clinicians at UPMC Cancer Center, partner with the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI), used SRBT in combination with the drug cetuximab for patients who had a recurrence for patients who had a recurrence of squamous cell carcinoma of the head and neck after going through radiation.

Doctors treated 48 patients with the combination therapy between July 2007 and March 2013. All of the patients were able to complete the treatments, which were administered in a span of about two weeks compared to traditional therapies which can take up to nine weeks. Severe toxicity was reported at 12 per cent using the combination therapy, compared to upwards of 85 per cent using conventional therapies.

One of the lead authors of the study, John Vargo, said: “The good news here is that we improved their quality of life and did it safely. Unfortunately, outcomes using this approach are still challenging so the next part of our research will concentrate on continuing to find ways to improve outcomes by integrating additional novel systemic agents.” 

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