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FLASH radiation therapy is a faster and safer way to treat cancer, say these scientists

FLASH radiation therapy is a faster and safer way to treat cancer, say these scientists

FLASH radiation therapy is a faster and safer way to treat cancer, say these scientists
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By CNBCTV18.com Nov 10, 2022 2:14:06 PM IST (Updated)

FLASH radiotherapy is a safe and effective alternative to traditional radiation therapy as it delivers over 300 times higher dosage than traditional radiation therapy in a fraction of a second. The radiation also attacks the tumour without harming the surrounding tissue

Scientists have found an experimental treatment of cancer using FLASH radiation therapy to be safe and effective, suggesting there may be a faster, less painful way to use radiation against difficult-to-kill malignancies.

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The first-in-human research was conducted on a small number of patients with bone cancer. In FLASH radiation therapy, therapeutic amounts of radiation can be delivered in the patient in a fraction of a second. This method of treatment was tested on animals first and proved to be equally safe and effective without producing any unanticipated adverse effects, news agency ANI reported.
What were the results?
For the study on humans, 12 metastatic spots in the patient’s arms and legs were treated. The doctors noticed that patients spent an average time of 15.8 minutes per treated site on the table. This meant that the workflow was feasible. Of the 12 treated cancer sites, the pain was fully relieved in six and partially relieved in two others. Health experts did not observe any unexpected additional toxicity with the substantially shorter time of treatment.
Why is this important?
Radiation therapy is used to treat cancer. As part of the process, a beam of radiation is directed at the tumour for a few minutes to kill cancer cells or slow their growth. Patients have to undergo the process five days a week for several weeks. The treatment usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes, including setup time.
Although killing cancer cells through this process is painless, the beam of radiation often damages healthy tissue near the tumour, resulting in pain in the patient and other side effects.
To minimise the adverse effects, doctors often resort to limiting the dosage, which could reduce the effectiveness of cancer treatment.
FLASH radiotherapy is a safe and effective alternative to traditional radiation therapy as it delivers over 300 times higher dosage than traditional radiation therapy in a fraction of a second. The radiation also attacks the tumour without harming the surrounding tissue.
“This offers the possibility of delivering larger doses of radiation — which could result in higher cure rates for patients with resistant tumours — without increasing side effects,” Freethink quoted John Breneman, principal investigator of the new trial, as saying.
Hopeful future
The researchers are hopeful that FLASH radiotherapy could be effectively used for treating cancers in the brain, lungs, or gastrointestinal area, without damaging the tissues around tumours in these areas.
They also believe the treatment could be used for cancers in children, who are more sensitive to the side effects of traditional radiation therapy.
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