PET scans track small tumors after stereotactic body radiotherapy

Readily available CT screening for lung cancer is increasing the discovery of small, primary lung cancers.

For many, a radiation technique called stereotactic body radiotherapy presents a less invasive treatment option to surgery that is typically offered to non-surgical candidates. Currently there is great interest in evaluating this approach in surgical candidates, but researchers have yet to identify an early method to determine the effectiveness in treatment which is vital. In a study presented today at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's 49th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, researchers present data showing metabolic response monitored by FDG PET may be an early surrogate for local treatment failure which may allow timely salvage surgery if deemed necessary.

“Stereotactic body radiotherapy may be as effective a treatment of these small tumors as compared to surgery,” explained Steven Feigenberg, M.D., an attending physician in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Fox Chase Cancer Center. “Because the technique causes scaring in the lungs, it can be difficult to identify progression of the tumor on a CT scan in a timely fashion, our standard way of tracking lung tumors, which may adversely affect outcomes due to potential treatment delays.”

“Our study appears to show PET scans at 3 months following treatment allow an earlier and more accurate method to evaluate tumor response. Confirming these findings is critical so that we can scientifically compare stereotactic body radiotherapy with surgery for these small tumors.”

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