Q&A Topic: Stereotactic Radiotherapy for Lung Cancer

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Alfred Tinger, MD, FACRO

Q. What is stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)?

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A. SBRT is an advanced treatment option that uses artificial intelligence and geometry to deliver high doses of radiation to very precise targets in a person’s body. It allows radiation to be delivered and defined by precise coordinates in three planes – length, width and depth. Due to its precision and ability to improve survival rates among patients, SBRT is now considered the treatment of choice for early non-small cell inoperable lung cancer. We are seeing an 80 percent survival rate for early non-small cell lung cancers with SBRT, compared to a 20 percent or less survival rate with standard radiation. SBRT is also used for other medically inoperable and high-risk surgical candidates such as those with pancreatic cancer and cancers that have spread to the lung, liver, adrenal gland, or spine.

Q. Is it similar to radiosurgery done on the brain with a Gamma knife?

A. Stereotactic radiosurgery with a gamma knife is a single high-dose of radiation, which has been in use for brain cancer since the 1950s. But stereotactic radiotherapy is multiple treatments and was not available for cancers outside the brain until recently. Why? Our brains don’t move. So, the point at which the highest dose of radiation should be delivered could be determined, but other body parts like the lungs and prostate move with respiration. We couldn’t hit a moving target, until now. The development of computerized artificial intelligence which “learns” and anticipates a person’s breathing pattern, has made SBRT an option for other cancers.

Q. How does it work?

A. To undergo treatment, patients have to lie still on a radiotherapy table and after the exact position is confirmed. A technology called Novalis, which we use at Northern Westchester Hospital delivers SBRT treatment. Novalis uses a high dose of radiation aimed at different angles to precisely target the tumor, while sparing healthy tissue. Radiation beams are guided by Novalis technology, which takes many images throughout the treatment as well as by metal markers, implanted in the tumor prior to treatment.  If the tumor moves out of range, radiation treatment automatically stops. It’s not painful. The high dose radiation destroys the DNA inside the tumor cells so they cannot heal themselves and therefore can’t survive. We can treat patients within one week or sometimes in one treatment because of the higher radiation dose and the precision of delivery.

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Q. Why is it so important to have this technology within our community?

A. By providing both Novalis and Gamma Knife technologies, we offer the entire spectrum of advanced treatments for patients who need SRS anywhere in the body. This allows our community members to get the highest quality advanced care, where they’re close to family and friends.

Learn More About Dr. Tinger
Chief of Radiation Oncology
Cancer Treatment & Wellness Center
Northern Westchester Hospital

Northern Westchester Hospital is a proud member of Northwell Health.

More from Dr. Tinger:
Cancer Survivorship
Radiation Oncology For Breast Cancer
Treating Skin Cancer with Radiation Therapy
Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer

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What’s this? This content is made possible by our partner. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the attitude, views, or opinions of the Westchester Magazine editorial staff.

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