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Clinical Trial Offers New Hope for Incurable Cancer Patients

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A new clinical trial out of the Beatson Institute for Cancer Research in Scotland has brought hope to “incurable” cancer patients. The trial studied a new kind of cancer treatment called high precision radiotherapy, and the findings were encouraging. The researchers believe the results suggest that this radiotherapy could double the length of time patients can live with cancer.

The Study

The study was namedSABR-COMET. The trial used roughly 100 patients from the UK, Canada, Australia, and the Netherlands. The patients had cancers that had already been treated but had metastasized to other parts of the body. In most of the patients, the cancer returned in five places or more after the initial treatment. 

High precision radiotherapy, known in the scientific community as stereotactic ablative radiotherapy, works by giving high radiation doses to the tumor areas over multiple sessions. This treatment was given to each of the patients in all of the areas where they had a tumor. 

Typically, when a patient’s cancer has metastasized, the patient is considered to have incurable cancer. But the researchers believe that this trial shows that radiotherapy can double the length of time the people with metastatic cancer can live. This is a good sign for people living with cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. 

How will this study help other cancer patients?

The co-author of the study, Dr. Stephen Harrow, said that the radiotherapy and its study could be a “game changer” for metastatic cancer patients. He said that the prognosis is usually very bad when cancer has spread away from the site of the original tumor. But the study suggests that the radiotherapy might be a new avenue for treatment for patients whose cancer has metastasized. 

Harrow also said the study was encouraging for a theory called oligometastatic theory (OT). The idea behind OT is that if a patient only has a couple spots of cancer that return after the initial treatment, then those spots can be eliminated by radiation. The end result is that their chances of survival would increase and their survival time would increase. Harrow said his study was the first to test OT in a randomized trial.

The Big Takeaway


Harrow said his main takeaway from the study was that if a patient’s cancer has only metastasized to a few spots, there still might be a way for doctors to fight them and give patients a better prognosis. He said that the average survival increase for patients who received radiotherapy was 13 months.

A Success Story

One of the biggest success stories from the trial came from local Scot Albert Anderson. He was 83 years old at the time of the trial. His first bout with cancer came seven years ago when he had a tumor in his esophagus that eventually spread to his lungs. The radiotherapy trial “completely eradicated” his cancer. Anderson said he hopes that this can be the new treatment for everyone who is facing a second fight with cancer.   

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