Adaptive radiotherapy fosters personalized care

Radiotherapy uses intense beams of energy to kill cancer cells, so it's crucial to localize a tumor precisely. Discover the factors that are critical for effective treatment and how adaptive radiotherapy improves patient outcomes. 

Andrea Lutz
Published on October 23, 2023

Adaptive radiotherapy is constantly monitored based on clinical images and daily treatment modifications to prevent excessive radiation exposure to residual tumors or healthy surrounding tissue. Three experts explain the factors that determine the success of this therapy. 

<p>Radiation therapy uses high-energy particles or waves such as X-rays, gamma rays, and protons to destroy cancer cells. Despite its side effects, radiation therapy is an extremely effective treatment for cancer. Four out of every ten cancer cures include radiotherapy as part of the treatment plan.[1]</p><p>However, tumors exposed to the same doses and types of radiation may experience uneven shrinkage, because patients may experience different responses. Also patients change physically over the course of their treatment: Many lose a lot of weight, and there are daily changes in a body, such as the volume of the bladder or the degree of bloating, that need to be factored in when treating with radiation.&nbsp;</p><p>With adaptive radiation therapy, the patient’s radiation plan is constantly readjusted during therapy to take into account alterations in the patient’s anatomy that may also affect the position of the tumor. The aim is to protect healthy tissue as well as possible.</p>
<p>While it's important to remember that every cancer and every person is different, radiation is often the treatment of choice to cure or shrink early-stage cancer. This is to stop cancer from recurring elsewhere, or as part of multidisciplinary treatment for cancer in advanced stages. Radiotherapy uses intense beams of energy to kill cancer cells. The X-rays must be carefully targeted to minimize damage to healthy cells. Since the body of a person with cancer can change daily or over the course of several weeks of treatment, it is essential to continually monitor the location of the tumor and make adjustments to the radiation as required.</p>
<p>Adaptive radiotherapy is particularly useful for treating cancer types that affect areas that change during therapy. While the brain and surrounding cranial structure don’t change in size or position over the course of treatment, there are other areas of the body where therapists need to adjust radiation treatment daily. For example, the bladder can vary significantly in size and shape depending on whether it is full or empty. This is a factor that can be taken into account today. Also, patients with non-small-cell lung cancer can benefit from flexible treatment since it reduces the exposure of at-risk organs while maintaining the planned target volume coverage.</p>
Radiation therapy kills cancer cells or slows their growth by damaging their DNA. The process can take several weeks: Cancer cells whose DNA is irreparably damaged stop mitosis and eventually die. However, radiation can also affect healthy cells nearby. That's why clinicians need to reliably protect healthy tissue from radiation.
<p>Radiotherapy usually consists of a series of daily treatments over several days or weeks. During treatment, therapists repeatedly take rapid, high-quality clinical images of the irradiated tumor tissue. AI technologies help analyze and interpret the resulting computed tomography (CT) images and filter out artifacts. This makes it easier for specialists to adapt the treatment plan daily for each patient depending on their situation. This helps provide them with the most effective treatment at all times.</p>
A highly complex treatment like radiotherapy only works if everyone on the team pulls together. In a radiotherapy team, radiation oncologists, physicists, and radiation therapists work together closely. Adaptive radiotherapy not only transforms treatment and outcomes for patients, it also affects the responsibilities within the clinical team.

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Adaptive radiotherapy personalizes cancer care
Adaptive radiotherapy personalizes cancer care
Learn how adaptive radiotherapy has the potential to reduce the side effects of typical radiological treatments by focusing on a more precise target, therefore allowing patients to better maintain their quality of life.

By Andrea Lutz
Andrea Lutz is a journalist and business trainer specialized on medical topics, technology, and healthcare IT. She lives in Nuremberg, Germany.