Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy or SABR is a new radiotherapy technique that has been successfully implemented recently for cancer patients in Kent area. This article will explain in simple terms more about this treatment highlighting its major advantages over traditional radiotherapy.
Traditional (also called conventional) Radiotherapy:
Radiotherapy has been in use for decades to treat cancer. It is usually delivered through a machine called Linear Accelerator (or LINAC) once a day, five times a week. The length of radiotherapy treatment depends on the cancer type and its stage but usually ranges from 3 to 6 weeks. Although conventional radiotherapy is very effective treatment for cancer, it has two major limitations:
- Some cancers are not static. For example, lung cancer may move during respiratory movement. This means that cancer may move out of the area being treated during treatment session which ends up in the cancer being undertreated with radiotherapy.
- Radiotherapy has to travel through normal tissue like skin and lungs to reach its target. This means that any attempt to increase the radiotherapy dose may end up in damaging the normal structures.
Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR)
Stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR) is a new form of radiotherapy uses a small number (usually 3 to 8) of highly precise radiotherapy to destroy cancers while minimising damage to normal tissue. It takes into account all movements expected by cancer to ensure that it is always receiving the prescribed radiation dose. SABR makes it possible to increase the radiotherapy dose to cancer because the LINAC is in constant rotational motion during treatment. This means that the high radiotherapy dose is spread over a wider area of which will reduce the dose ( and therefore damage) received by each individual normal structures.
SABR is delivered in fewer treatment sessions than standard radiotherapy which means fewer visits to the treatment centre. This is expected to minimise the adverse effect of treatment on patients and their families and friends. It can be used as an alternative to surgery, or where surgery isn’t an option, for example, if a tumour is located in an area which is difficult to operate on.
In Kent area, SABR is available in Kent Oncology Centre in Maidstone (for lung cancer patients only) and at GenesisCare in West Malling (for lung, spine, liver and bone tumours, as well as tumours in individual lymph nodes).