Radiation Therapy for Lung Cancer

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Radiation therapy is precisely directed high-energy beams that can kill cancer cells. Proper dosing of the radiation requires the expertise of highly trained radiation oncologists, physicists, and dosimetrists such as those available at the Lung Cancer/Thoracic Oncology Program at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. 

Physicians at the Cancer Institute utilize a variety of sophisticated modalities, which includes 3D conformal radiation therapy, intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), and stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) to deliver the safest and most effective therapy available.

The dosage, choice of technique (3D conformal, IMRT, SBRT), and number of treatments depends on the stage of the lung cancer. Radiation therapy can be a powerful treatment option for cancer that has high success rates.  It can be offered to lung cancer patients in various stages to help cure, control, and reduce symptoms from the cancer.

Early Stage, Stage I
(Stereotactic Radiation [SBRT] vs. CyberKnife)

Surgery has been the “gold standard” for the treatment of early stage lung cancer.  However, some people may not be surgical candidates for a variety of reasons including very severe Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).  CyberKnife or SBRT have been shown to be a good alternative for those patients . Stereotactic radiation delivers a higher dose of radiation over a shorter period of time compared to conventional radiotherapy (three to five days vs six weeks). The CyberKnife also delivers high dose radiation over a short period of time but requires placement of markers around the tumor to monitor motion.  The SBRT technology at the Cancer Institute can see the tumor and adjust for movement so placement of markers is not required.

Stereotactic radiation requires extra precision to treat tumors, since lung cancer tumors can move with breathing.  At Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, we have the best equipment and most experience in New Jersey to be able to deliver this therapy with excellent results.  The doctors who deliver this therapy have been involved in national panels to help design radiation therapy.

A multi-disciplinary group of doctors at the Cancer Institute will review your case to ensure stereotactic radiation is the best therapy for you. This type of therapy should not be used for patients who may be best treated with surgery, tumors greater than five cm, and close to a major organ. Our team of national leaders in the field of lung cancer consists of surgeons, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, radiologists, and pulmonologists.

Locally advanced disease: Stage II and Stage III

Locally advanced disease is a tumor that is no longer confined to one area within the lung but has spread to other areas within the chest, which includes lymph nodes.  Since the tumor has not spread outside the chest it can be controlled with radiation therapy. Many patients with locally advanced disease will require both chemotherapy and radiation. Some patients with locally advanced disease could also be candidates for surgery. Radiation therapy in these cases may require daily treatments (five times weekly) over several weeks.  Our team utilizes the best equipment available to deliver the most accurate and safest treatment.

Advanced/Metastatic disease: Stage IV

Some patients present or develop advanced disease with tumors spreading outside of the chest (metastasis, stage IV) to other organs that includes the brain, bone, liver, adrenal glands and lung, which may benefit from radiation therapy.  Radiation therapy may be used to relieve symptoms or prevent the development of unwanted symptoms.

GammaKnife is stereotactic radiation that is sometime used to deliver precisely focused radiation to tumors in the brain. Gammaknife is a one-day session with a single high-dose of radiation.

Stereotactic radiation can also be used to treat tumor in bone or spine to relieve pain and control tumor growth.  Stereotactic radiation is also used to treat other organs including adrenal gland and liver.  One important advantage of stereotactic therapies is they are completed in one to five days, so other essential treatment is not delayed.

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