Henry Ford Hospital Physicians tackling pancreatic cancer can probably benefit from this piece of investigation. Scientists from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit suggest that stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) helps treat pancreatic cancer and a highly targeted cancer radiation therapy can slow cancer progression along with decline in disease symptoms. Smoking, diabetes, obesity, family history of the disease and pancreatitis are known to be the risk factors for this type of cancer.

Pancreatic cancer progression is supposedly slowed down on an average of six months by SBRT. A study initiated on patients with pancreatic cancer asserted that those subjected to SBRT had a survival rate of approximately 10 months with one-third lived for more than a year. On the other hand, patients without any treatment like surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy reported a survival of four to six months. SBRT appears to effectively treat patients incapable of tolerating prolonged, aggressive therapy within a short period of time and with minimal toxicity. Researchers believe the surgery in areas where cancer is localized to the pancreas and hasn’t spread can treat resectable pancreatic cancer.

Michael Haley, D.O., residing in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Henry Ford Hospital and lead author, elucidated, “Our research establishes stereotactic body radiotherapy as a reasonable treatment option for patients who can’t have surgery or aren’t candidates for chemotherapy. While it’s not a curative therapy, it does seem to allow some progression-free survival benefit with minimal side-effects for patients. Ultimately, we’re able to provide a treatment to patients who don’t have any other options other than a traditionally prolonged course of radiation, which may not be as effective, and possibly has more side effects.”

During SBRT, radiation provided may be highly targeted to the tumor without affecting the normal tissue around it and lead to requirement of fewer treatments. 12 medically inoperable patients with stage I or II pancreatic cancer included with the study had a median patient age of 83 years. Three to seven SBRT treatments were given to the study subjects. SBRT apparently delayed cancer progression for five to six months in patients whose cancer had spread. Those registered with cancer progression lived for around 2.5 months. It was concluded that SBRT can slow disease progression and elevate overall life span. Some minor side effects such as fatigue, loss of appetite, weakness and gastric ulcers were reported by a few patients.

The study is published online in the November issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology.