According to recent studies, radiotherapy, one of the oldest treatments used to defeat cancer, can have positive effects and fuel life expectancy in ‘oligometastatic’ patients, i.e. those who develop few metastases.
Prof. Marta Scorsetti, Head of the Radiotherapy and Radiosurgery Unit at Humanitas, talked about this topic in an interview: “The results of this research clearly show that a radical dose of radiotherapy achieves a double result: it prolongs the survival of patients and alleviates their symptoms, improving their quality of life. With very few side effects, mostly transitory, and a low cost for the health system.
“Scorsetti explains: “The ‘oligometastatics’ are those patients who, although they have a disease already spread to several sites in the body, still have a limited number of metastatic lesions: up to 3-5 metastases in one or more organs”, Scorsetti explained. “Today these patients are mostly assessed by a medical oncologist who chooses the most suitable drug therapy in each case, depending on the many variables to be taken into account, including the type of tumor, its extent, the treatments previously carried out and the response to those treatments”.
“Radiotherapy is generally considered a useful resource especially to relieve pain – concluded Scorsetti – and with this palliative purpose it is prescribed in low doses and directed against the sites of the bone skeleton affected by metastases, which can cause great suffering.
Two studies confirming the effectiveness of radiotherapy
In particular, there are two studies in support of radiotherapy in ‘oligomestatic’ patients: one was presented in San Antonio (Texas) on the occasion of the congress of the American Society of Radiotherapy, while the second was presented during the conference of the European Society of Oncology in Munich.
“Both these studies, even if in different clinical scenarios, are very important because they validate an approach that was already widely used in the most advanced radiotherapy centers – explained Scorsetti. Now that we have the definitive confirmation of the usefulness of an aggressive approach on metastases with local treatments to be associated with common medical therapies, the next step should be the identification of factors that can better predict the prognosis, helping us to distinguish the true oligometastatic patient more accurately from the patient who has a more aggressive disease. With the aim not only of prolonging survival, but also trying to treat at least some of the metastatic patients”, concluded the professor.