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New lung cancer radiation technique


By Deborah Condon

A leading Irish lung cancer expert is conducting pioneering research into a new technique to treat the disease, which minimises damage to nearby tissue.

Professor John Armstrong, consultant radiation oncologist at St Luke's Hospital in Dublin, is conducting the research into a radiotherapy technique, known as Active Breathing Control.

This allows for precise doses of radiation to be given to lung cancer patients, minimising the risk of damage to nearby healthy tissue.

One of the main challenges in using radiotherapy to treat lung cancer is that, as we are constantly breathing, our lungs are moving within our rib cage. This means that any cancer located in the lungs is moving with every breath, making it a 'moving target'.

With Active Breathing Control, using a device linked to the patient's breathing and a sophisticated computer, the dose of radiation is timed to a specific breath-hold, during which the lungs are essentially not moving for 10 to 20 seconds.

"Not every patient is suitable for this type of therapy as they must be able to hold their breath for 10 to 20 seconds while the treatment dose is being given. However many patients find this manageable", Professor Armstrong said.

The first study on the use of Active Breathing Control in St Luke's Hospital was completed recently. Nineteen patients participated and from this, the researchers were able to learn more about, for example:

-Identifying the suitability of particular patients.

-The duration of comfortable breath-holds for patients.

This information will now enable the researchers to design specific treatment protocols for the use of this technique.

Details of this research were presented to the British Thoracic Oncology Meeting, which took place in Dublin, in association with the Irish Cancer Society.

Currently in Ireland, over 1,500 new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed every year. A similar number of people also die every year as a result of the disease. For more information on lung cancer, click on...


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