Individualized Care Achievable in Radiation Oncology
More than a century after Marie Curie was awarded her second Noble Prize for radium research, radiation medicine has undergone remarkable advances, especially in the field of Oncology.
Radiation therapy forms an intrinsic part of cancer treatment and can be curative in nature for certain cancers. It has been reported that at least half of all cancer patients will need radiation therapy as part of their treatment protocol, as multiple tumor types are responsive to radiotherapy.
In addition, radiation therapy is highly cost-effective. The main goal of radiation therapy is to inhibit multiplication of cancer cells by wiping them out leading to tumor cell death. Radiotherapy can be used in various treatment settings by itself alone, alongside chemotherapy or in combination with surgery.
Radiotherapy can significantly prolong patient survival and improve the local control rates of tumors. Furthermore, radiotherapy can help to avoid surgical amputation in some bone cancers (Multiple myeloma, Ewing’s sarcoma, Lymphoma) and it can be used in palliative settings to improve the quality of life.
Physicians and other health care providers aim to provide individualized care to their patients in order to enhance the welfare of their patients. Individualized medicine encompasses an evidence-based treatment plan that is tailored specifically to a patient. This individualized patient care can now be offered by the advancements that have taken place in radiation oncology. New technology allows clinicians to safely and precisely target cancers with a higher dose of radiation, while sparing healthy cells surrounding the cancer from unnecessary radiation exposure. There might be healthy adjacent normal structures such as the heart, lung, spinal cord, eyes and the gut close to the tumor that may be at risk if directly covered by radiation. However, the “ intensity modulated planning and image-based target verification technology” allows the physician to individualize treatment for each patient, allowing maximization of the treatment dose precisely to the tumor alone.
Further, as the patient is being treated, the physicians can track the radiation induced response of the cancer by adaptive planning. By this, dose adjustments can be done by the treating physician by targeting areas of the tumor that are most active and resistant with more aggressive therapy and lessen the dose to areas that are responding. This novel procedure offers greater customization by individualizing doses for patients and can dramatically reduce the treatment course, from weeks to days. This type of individualized care is possible since the changes observed during treatment are very different from patient to patient and from tumor to tumor.
Individualized cancer care centers can now offer up-to-date cancer therapy in a socially and emotionally supportive setting to help patients cope with their cancer and any side effects that may be associated with the treatment. Qualified staff to provide such care includes radiation oncologists, dosimetrists, physicists, therapists, nurses and counsellors armed with specialized training and experience to fight each individual cancer.