MAY 30, 2019 09:07 AM PDT

Single Radiation Dose Now Shown to Treat Bone Cancer Pain

WRITTEN BY: Julia Travers

Palliative radiation is often used to treat the pain that accompanies metastatic bone tumors. How much and how often to use this treatment has been debated and studied, and using multiple lower doses is generally the current standard. A new clinical trial employing contemporary radiation technologies including three-dimensional radiation therapy and intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) found that a single high dose of radiation was just as effective for pain reduction as multiple smaller doses, and actually provided more patients with long-term pain relief.

“This is one of the most exciting studies about the value of radiotherapy treatments for bone pain to come out in the past several years,” radiation oncologist Stephen Lutz, M.D., of Eastern Woods Radiation Oncology in Ohio, who was not involved in the research, said.

Bone cancer image, credit: U.S. National Library of Medicine

A total of 160 patients who had painful bone metastases (the majority did not involve the spine) at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center participated in the trial, which compared one higher dose of radiation to multiple lower doses over a two-week period. The researchers analyzed pain questionnaires and found the single delivery of radiation therapy was not inferior to the multiple doses in regard to pain control or recurrence at the site. In fact, a greater number of the patients who received a single-dose reported all or some of the pain had been alleviated at various time intervals up to nine months, compared with those patients in the multiple-dose group. What’s more, after one and two years went by, the tumor recurrence rate at the treated cancer sites was lower in the group that received a single treatment.

Previous studies suggested that a single treatment might work, but that its effectiveness might wear off more quickly. Lutz attributes the new findings to advances in radiation; “The results of this study suggest that the effectiveness of radiation therapy can be greatly improved by using new technologies.” He added, “The current results are based on a small number of patients and will need to be confirmed in a larger group treated at multiple different cancer centers.”

hand X-ray, credit: public domain

Lead author Quynh-Nhu Nguyen, M.D. said, “We should individualize our care for [patients],” based on their conditions and overall health. For a person with a life expectancy of less than a month, “it’s reasonable to give them a single low dose of radiation for pain,” she explained.

For people with a longer life expectancy, “it makes sense to give them a single higher dose of radiation to alleviate pain over the long term.

 

Sources: National Cancer Institute, JAMA Oncology

About the Author
  • Julia Travers is a writer, artist and teacher. She frequently covers science, tech and conservation.
You May Also Like
JUN 15, 2019
Immunology
JUN 15, 2019
The C-word. Michael Kinch's new book and the future of Cancer Treatment
The C-word. Dare we say it? Is a cure for cancer within reach?   Professor Michael Kinch https://publichealth.wustl.edu/scholars/michael-s-kinch/ of W...
JUN 15, 2019
Cancer
JUN 15, 2019
A vaccine to protect your pup from cancer
They are our best friends, our constant company, our unconditional loves: our dogs. Though they often pass through our own lives for less time than our hum...
JUN 15, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
JUN 15, 2019
Understanding Why Whales Don't Get Cancer
Many types of animals can get cancer, and while large animals would seemingly have higher rates, whales and elephants have some of the lowest rates....
JUN 15, 2019
Cancer
JUN 15, 2019
Children with liver cancer may not need as much chemo
Results from a phase 3 clinical trial show that children with liver cancer may not need as much chemotherapy as has been traditionally administered. The mo...
JUN 15, 2019
Microbiology
JUN 15, 2019
Studies Confirm That a Poor Diet can Lead to Disease
Recent work has shown that people all over the world can improve their health and lower cancer risk by eating a more balanced diet....
JUN 15, 2019
Genetics & Genomics
JUN 15, 2019
How Dangerous is Radiation?
No one wants to be exposed to an atomic blast, but studies has shown that the fear of low doses of radiation may be overblown....
Loading Comments...