A type of radiotherapy called stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) can put patients with early stage non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) at an increased risk of death from causes other than cancer, according to a new study.
In particular, researchers found that high doses to the left atrium of the heart and the superior vena cava (the large vein carrying deoxygenated blood from the head, arms and upper body to the heart) had the strongest association and increased risk of non-cancer death.
Dr Barbara Stam from the Netherlands Cancer Institute told the ESTRO 35 conference that as a result of these findings, she and other researchers would be investigating ways to deliver radiotherapy while sparing these crucial heart structures as much as possible.
Stam and colleagues analysed data from 565 patients diagnosed with early NSCLC between 2006-2013 in five institutions in Europe and North America, who were treated with SBRT.
President of ESTRO, Professor Philip Poortmans, who was not involved in the research, commented: “Research into the details of the dose distribution and the (largely unknown) causes of death is required before these results could be translated to the daily clinics’ environment, apart from the advice to keep the dose to the heart as low as possible while maintaining optimal tumour control.”