Your Health: ‘Personalized radiation’ boosts cancer treatment

Your Health: Personalized radiation could boost cancer treatments
Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 5:49 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - As many as two-thirds of all cancer patients are prescribed radiation therapy. The treatment is targeted to kill any cancer cells left behind after surgery.

Now, researchers are trying to identify ways to personalize radiation to improve a patient’s quality of life.

Heath Skinner is a doctor at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center.

“One of the problems with radiation is it has side effects,” Dr. Skinner said. “It has toxicities and those toxicities last lifelong.”

Dr. Skinner and his colleagues are researching ways to improve a patient’s response to radiation and, ultimately, decrease exposure to radiation.

For starters, they’ve identified two proteins in solid tumors that might make cancer resistant to treatment. The researchers are also testing drugs that are currently in development to block those proteins.

Dr. Skinner said, “If you combine that with radiation in the mutated tumors, you have these dramatic responses, some of the best responses I’ve ever seen in animal models.”

The researchers have also examined the mutations and radiation resistance in human cells, bringing them one step closer to personalized radiation.

“If we can combine an agent, a targeted agent with radiation to make radiation work so much better on the cancer cells, maybe we can pull back the radiation dose, make it less toxic while still having really good effectiveness and making cancer go away and not come back,” he said.

The researchers focused on head and neck tumors. They say the approach could work with other solid tumors, like those in the lung.

Doctor skinner anticipates human clinical trials to identify the mutations in a year or so.

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