Stereotactic radiotherapy slows pancreatic cancer progression for
inoperable patients

Published: Oct 29, 2010

DETROIT For pancreatic cancer patients unable to undergo surgery the
only known cure for this form of cancer a highly targeted cancer
radiation therapy may help slow cancer progression and lessen disease
symptoms, according to researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Called stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT), the study found it was able
to delay pancreatic cancer progression locally, on average, by almost six

While, on average, the patients in the study lived about 10 months,
one-third lived more than a year.

Without any treatment surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy most
pancreatic cancer patients only live about four to six months.

"Our research establishes stereotactic body radiotherapy as a reasonable
treatment option for patients who can't have surgery or aren't candidates
for chemotherapy," says study lead author Michael Haley, D.O., a resident
in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Henry Ford Hospital.

"While it's not a curative therapy, it does seem to allow some
progression-free survival benefit with minimal side-effects for patients.
Ultimately, we're able to provide a treatment to patients who don't have
any other options other than a traditionally prolonged course of
radiation, which may not be as effective, and possibly has more side

Says study co-author Munther Ajlouni, M.D., senior staff physician in the
Department of Radiation Oncology at Henry Ford: "SBRT allows us to
effectively treat patients who are unable to tolerate prolonged,
aggressive therapy within a short period of time and with minimal

The study will be presented Nov. 2 during the poster session at the 52nd
annual American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) meeting in San
Diego. Results also are online in the November issue of the International
Journal of Radiation Oncology.

According to the National Cancer Institute, in 2010 there will be an
estimated 43,140 new cases of pancreatic cancer, and approximately 36,800
will die from the disease. Risk factors for pancreatic cancer include
smoking, diabetes, obesity, family history of the disease and
pancreatitis. Most people diagnosed with the disease are older than 65.

Surgery is the only known cure for resectable pancreatic cancer, where the
cancer is localized to the pancreas and hasn't spread.

It is estimated that only 20 percent of pancreatic cancer patients have
their tumors present with localized disease amenable to surgical removal.
A select number of those patients, however, are not candidates for surgery
due to having other co-morbidities such as heart disease. This leaves only
chemotherapy and radiation, or a combination of the two, available for

SBRT is a method of giving radiation that can be highly targeted to the
tumor, sparing the normal tissue around it. It also provides a higher dose
of radiation, meaning patients have fewer treatments. It is most commonly
used for lung cancer patients, but has been used for liver and brain
tumors as well.

The Henry Ford study looked to determine if SBRT was a viable option to
slow cancer progression in medically inoperable patients with potentially
resectable pancreatic cancer.

The study included 12 medically inoperable patients with stage I or II
pancreatic cancer. The median patient age was 83. Patients received
between three and seven SBRT treatments.

Among those patients whose cancer spread, SBRT was able to slow cancer
progression for five to six months. Once the patients' cancer started to
progress, they lived about 2.5 months. "This may indicate that this
slowing of the progression of disease accomplished by SBRT may modestly
increase overall life span," notes Dr. Haley.

A few patients reported some minor side effects from treatment, including
fatigue, loss of appetite and weakness. Two patients developed gastric
ulcers, but both recovered.

Source: 52nd annual American Society for Radiation Oncology meeting