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Radiotherapy Safe for Inoperable Spinal Tumors

Minimally invasive treatment controls tumor growth (August 12)

A new type of radiation treatment has been found to control cancer growth and prolong survival in patients with spinal tumors. Carbon ion radiotherapy may be a promising alternative when spinal tumors cannot be surgically removed, according to new findings published online in Cancer.

Surgery is the mainstay of treatment for spinal sarcomas; however, these tumors are very challenging for orthopedic surgeons. Some patients are not candidates for surgery because of the location of the tumor or because of the patient’s condition. In these cases, radiation therapy is generally used.

Carbon ion radiotherapy is effective in patients with various types of inoperable sarcomas, which arise from connective tissue. Carbon ions are used to target radiation to the tumor. The treatment is minimally invasive and has little effect on nearby healthy tissues.

To investigate the effectiveness and safety of this modality for inoperable spinal sarcomas, researchers in Japan reviewed treatment outcomes in 47 patients between 1996 and 2011. In 79 percent of patients, tumor growth was controlled for at least 5 years, and 52 percent of patients survived for at least this amount of time. Almost 50 percent survived for 5 years without experiencing cancer progression.

None of the 15 patients with tumors that were smaller than 100 cm3 experienced cancer recurrence. No fatal toxicities occurred, although skin reactions, vertebral compression, and a spinal cord reaction were noted. Twenty-two of the 28 patients who were alive at the last follow-up assessment could walk without supportive devices.

Source: Cancer; August 12, 2013.

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