Norwegian and Swedish researchers have developed a new type of internal radiation therapy for cancer that has spread to skeletal tissue. Experience from an early patient test is optimistic, according to a report being presented at the 18th International Cancer Congress in Oslo this week.
Many patients with advanced breast, prostate or lung cancer experience metastasis to skeletal tissue. This is often a source of pain and suffering.
Exterior irradiation and medication, including radioactive substances injected into the bloodstream, can retard cancer growth in skeletal tissue, but now a new radium isotope may offer a new and better alternative. The first tests on Norwegian and Swedish patients are currently in progress, and the experience thus far gives grounds for optimism.
In animal trials, this new isotope had good results on breast cancer that had spread to skeletal tissue. The animals lived longer and some were cured. (Cancer Research, June 2002). Experience from the first study on 20 Norwegian and Swedish patients indicates that many were able to use a lower dose of painkillers. This indicates that the treatment is effective.
"This is a phase 1 study where we are testing different doses to determine which dose we can administer without too many side effects. First and foremost, we are examining blood platelets and white cells in the blood to see whether their production is affected. The patients have advanced cancer. It was promising that many of them could take a lower dose of painkillers, as it implies improved quality of life. However, a phase 2 study is required to perform imaging, determine whether there is any reduction in malignant tissue, and systematically examine pain relief and survival", explains Balteskard.
"Is it possible that this new radium isotope might offer a cure for skeletal metastasis?"
"We believe this treatment might be administered the first time a tumour spreads to skeletal tissue, and that it might inhibit metastases. This would have an effect on pain and quality of life and could increase survival. It is still too early to tell whether such treatment might offer a cure if administered early enough", adds Balteskard.
Abstract P 459 in Poster Session 1 refers to the Norwegian-Swedish study on radium 223.
For more information, see the abstract from the symposium: Skeletal metastases, Monday, 08.45, inter alia in 15, Serafini, which will give an overview of bone-seeking radioactive isotopes for use in cancer treatment
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