March is Kidney Cancer Awareness Month, a disease that is among the 10 most common cancers in men and women according to the American Cancer Society.
Andrew Kennedy, MD, Sarah Cannon’s Physician-in-Chief of Radiation Oncology and Director of Radiation Oncology Research, shares exciting developments in the use of stereotactic radiotherapy in the treatment of kidney cancer.
The use of stereotactic radiotherapy (SRS and SBRT) for kidney cancers in both the brain and in the body is a rapidly growing area of radiotherapy.
- Stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) is a treatment technique that uses multiple high-intensity radiation beams or arcs to delivery extremely precise dose distributions to tumors in the brain during a single treatment. Although “surgery” is in the name, the procedure is non-invasive and does not involve surgery.
- Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) is a technique that uses precise imaging in conjunction with high-intensity radiation beams or arcs to deliver high radiation doses to targets within the body in three to five treatments. SBRT is commonly used to treat specific types of tumors in the lungs, spine, liver and prostate.
When considering treatment options for kidney cancer, typically patients have surgery to remove their kidney. However, if that is not possible, or if the cancer has metastasized (spread to other parts of the body), patients may receive radiation as an alternative treatment option.
In the past, if a patient was hesitant to receive surgery, the lesion was in a difficult location for surgery, or if surgery was simply not the best option, the patient would receive 5-6 weeks of external beam radiation, given once daily on weekdays.
However, stereotactic radiotherapy benefits patients in several ways, as compared to older approaches. With the use of stereotactic radiotherapy doctors can:
- Reduce the amount of time and number of treatments necessary to destroy a metastatic lesion. One to three treatments using this approach are equivalent to 25 to 30 treatments over five weeks with external beam radiation.
- Protect normal, adjacent organs/structures from radiation injury. This will help a patient with recovery and reduce side effects.
“Stereotactic radiotherapy is easier on the patient and just as effective,” says Dr. Kennedy. “The patient receives external beam radiation in a short course of stereotactic treatments to cancerous masses to destroy them in one to three treatments versus 25 or 30. Because kidney cancers tend to require more radiation than some other solid tumors, this technique can provide that higher dose very conveniently and safely.”
Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, provides stereotactic radiotherapy in the majority of its cancer centers across its network. A multidisciplinary team of surgeons, medical oncologists and radiation oncologists will determine what is best for the patient on a case by case basis.