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Medical Moment: Targeting tumors from the inside out

Published: Sep. 23, 2021 at 10:20 PM EDT
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For people with metastatic cancer, radiation is often not an option.

With traditional radiation, each tumor needs to be treated separately, requiring multiple sessions.

But now, new technology is expanding options for patients with advanced cancer.

Patients with early-stage solid tumor cancers, like breast cancer, lung cancer and prostate cancer, often have radiation directing energy beams into the body to kill cancer cells. Now, a newly approved FDA system, called RefleXion, works using biology guided radiotherapy, or BGRT.

“This actually utilizes the biological signal,” says David A. Clump, radiation oncologist at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “So, it’s adapting the treatment based upon the actual biology of the tumor. And it’s actually using the biology of the tumor to track and account for motion and deliver more conformal treatments.”

Before radiotherapy, patients are given a small amount of radioactive tracer that is absorbed by the tumors. The tracer gives off a signal, allowing the RefleXion scanner to precisely track it in real time, and adjust if the patient or tumor is moving.

“It helps with precision, we’re able to be more conformal, which means we’re able to target the radiation in and around the tumor and spare the normal tissues,” Clump says. “I think the most important aspect is this gives us the first opportunity to really ablate disease in multiple areas of the body in a single treatment session.”

There are just a handful of treatment centers in the U.S. using this system.

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