Group trial bolsters case for stereotactic radiation therapy for tumors that travel to the lungs

Presenting author:
Shanker Siva, PhD

By Laura Williamson

A new study, conducted across 13 medical centers in Australia and New Zealand, strengthens the case for radiation therapy as a treatment for cancer that has begun to spread throughout the body. In the randomized SAFRON Phase II trial, patients with up to three lung metastases who were treated with stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) fared equally well whether their radiation was delivered in one or four treatment sessions.

“I think the future of radiation oncology could be these ultra-short treatments,” said lead investigator Shankar Siva, PhD, an associate professor of radiation oncology and head of the SBRT program at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia. “Our results indicate that SBRT can be a safe and effective treatment for patients whose cancer has spread to their lungs, even when it’s delivered in a single session.

“For patients with a limited number of metastases, recent studies have shown that there can be long-term survivors with the use of SBRT," said Dr. Siva. "These studies tend to be smaller institutional series with a wide variety of SBRT regimens, so we designed our trial to test the safety and effectiveness of SBRT in a more robust fashion."

In this Phase II TROG Cancer Research trial, Dr. Siva and his team randomized 90 patients into two treatment arms: half received a single fraction of 28Gy and the other half received a biologically-equivalent regimen of four fractions of 12Gy each. Each patient had up to three lung metastases from primary tumors in other sites, most commonly colorectal cancer (47%).

A total of 37 patients in each treatment group were eligible for safety analyses at one year after treatment. In the cohort who received a single treatment, two patients had grade three side effects, including fatigue, loss of breath and chest pain; no patients experienced grade four or five side effects (i.e., hospitalization or death). In the cohort who received four SBRT treatments, one patient died after experiencing pneumonitis within three months of treatment; there were no grade three or four events. Dr. Siva explained that the events on the single-fraction arm lasted less than three months and that his team found undiagnosed interstitial lung disease in the patient who died on the four-fraction arm.

The researchers also compared survival rates between the groups a year after treatment and found them to be nearly identical across both regimens. Local control rates were 93% for patients who received a single SBRT treatment, compared to 95% for those who received four treatments; overall survival rates were 95% and 93%; and disease-free survival rates were 59% and 60%. Dr. Siva said the team will continue to analyze these secondary endpoints up to three years after treatment, as well as quality of life and cost effectiveness.

SBRT is typically spread out over up to five treatment sessions. "When we compress a multi-treatment course into a single treatment, there is a potential risk of higher toxicity. Based on our own anecdotal experience, we are quite comfortable using the single treatment approach, but globally, it's used less often," explained Dr. Siva. "There also are concerns that a single treatment might not have the same kind of effectiveness as multiple treatments. Thankfully, in this study, at least a year out we are seeing similar efficacy, where 93-95% of the tumors were controlled in both arms. Our final analysis will show if this holds for the long-term, but these early results indicate that single fraction radiation could be carried out equally effectively across multiple institutions.”


Stereotactic Ablative Fractionated Radiotherapy versus Radiosurgery for Oligometastatic Neoplasia to the Lung: A Randomized Phase II Trial was presented on October 28 as part of Clinical Trials session CT 01.

Published on: October 29, 2020

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