Personalized radiation boosts cancer treatment: Medicine’s next big thing?

Personalized radiation boosts cancer treatment: Medicine’s next big thing?
Published: Apr. 12, 2022 at 6:46 AM CDT|Updated: Apr. 12, 2022 at 5:32 PM CDT
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PITTSBURGH. (IVANHOE NEWSWIRE) - As many as half to two-thirds of all cancer patients are prescribed radiation therapy, a treatment that is targeted to kill any cancer cells left behind after surgery. Now, researchers are trying to identify ways to personalize radiation, improving a patient’s quality of life.

For some patients, cancer surgery is followed by intensive radiation treatments designed to keep cancer cells from coming back.

“One of the problems with radiation is it has side effects. It has toxicities and those toxicities last lifelong,” explained Heath Skinner, MD, PhD, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

Dr. Skinner and his colleagues are researching ways to improve a patient’s response to radiation and ultimately decrease exposure to radiation. For starters, they’ve identified two proteins in solid tumors called hat that might make cancer resistant to treatment. The researchers are also testing drugs that are currently in development to block those proteins.

“If you combine that with radiation in the mutated tumors, you have these dramatic responses, some of the best responses I’ve ever seen in animal models,” said Dr. Skinner.

The researchers have also examined the mutations and radiation resistance in human cells, bringing them one step closer to personalized radiation.

“If we can combine an agent, a targeted agent with radiation to make radiation work so much better on the cancer cells, maybe we can pull back the radiation dose, make it less toxic while still having really good effectiveness and making cancer go away and not come back,” continued Dr. Skinner.

The researchers focused on head and neck tumors but say the approach could work with other solid tumors, like those in the lung. Dr. Skinner says he anticipates human clinical trials to identify the mutations in a year or so.

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