Radiation Oncology Advances Improve Safety and Efficacy of Treatment for Brain Tumors

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MD Anderson Radiation Oncologist presents cutting-edge therapy options at American Brain Tumor Association’s national conference

Radiation therapy is an area where we are making great strides in the treatment of primary brain tumors as well as brain metastases," said Erik P. Sulman, MD, PhD, associate professor of Radiation Oncology, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

July 23, 2015, Chicago - Advances in radiation therapy are improving safety and efficacy by providing more targeted treatment options with fewer side effects, according to Erik P. Sulman, MD, PhD, associate professor of Radiation Oncology, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

At the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA) National Patient and Family Conference in Chicago, July 24-25, Dr. Sulman will discuss the progress being made in radiation oncology treatments.

“Radiation therapy is an area where we are making great strides in the treatment of primary brain tumors as well as brain metastases,” said Dr. Sulman. “Advances in particle therapy such as proton therapy as well as conventional x-ray therapy are allowing us to take a more targeted approach to halting tumor growth while sparing healthy tissue in an effort to preserve neurocognitive function.”

Dr. Sulman explained that historically radiation therapy impacted nearly everything in its path, so doctors had to limit the dose delivered to the tumor in order to minimize damage to surrounding healthy tissue. However, with innovative treatments such as intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) and proton therapy, doctors can deliver higher doses of radiation to the tumor with limited damage to the surrounding healthy tissue.

“There is also a national clinical trial underway by the NRG Oncology that’s looking at increasing the dose of radiation with proton therapy for glioblastoma with the hope of improving overall survival.” added Dr. Sulman.

“With growing understanding of how radiation toxicity affects the brain, these new technologies are making it possible for radiation oncologists to better preserve neurocognition,” said Elizabeth M. Wilson, MNA, President and CEO, American Brain Tumor Association. “This is an area that is becoming increasingly more important as patients and caregivers take an active role in discussing quality of life issues prior to making treatment decisions.”

Another novel technique aimed at sparing healthy tissue is volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT). Because single or multiple radiation beams sweep in uninterrupted arcs around the patient to deliver precise doses of radiation from various angles, VMAT is an advanced form of IMRT that may be able to further spare normal tissues.

“There continues to be great interest in immunologic therapies for the treatment of brain tumors and many of these therapies may be enhanced greatly by timing them appropriately with radiation,” added Dr. Sulman. “Research suggests that radiation may help activate the immune system to heighten an immunologic response, so ongoing and future clinical studies will continue to determine the best timing of radiation with immunotherapy.”

Advances in image-guided radiation therapy (IGRT) are bringing precision medicine to a new level. Dr. Sulman explained that IGRT allows doctors to verify tumor positioning while the patient is being treated. This advanced imaging allows radiation oncologists to reduce the amount of brain that is treated because it provides greater accuracy and precision in delivering radiation therapy directly to the tumor.

The ABTA’s 2015 National Patient and Family conference will take place July 24-25 at the Renaissance Chicago O’Hare Suites Hotel, just minutes away from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. To learn more, visit http://www.braintumorconference.org.

The ABTA’s national conference is the largest gathering of brain tumor patients, caregivers, healthcare professionals and researchers, attracting more than 200 attendees who come together for two days of education, support, and networking opportunities. To see the full program schedule, go to http://www.braintumorconference.org

Founded in 1973, the American Brain Tumor Association was first and is now the only national organization committed to funding brain tumor research and providing information and education on all tumor types for all ages. For more information, visit http://www.abta.org or call 800-886-ABTA (2282).
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