In the quest for more effective cancer treatments, radiosurgery is an invaluable discovery. The use of this treatment — which targets tumors with highly precise, high-powered radiation beams — is on the rise to treat some of the most complicated cancers.
Despite its name, radiosurgery does not involve actual surgery. It's an advanced form of radiation therapy that delivers up to 10 times the traditional radiation dose to a tumor, with the millimeter accuracy of a surgeon's scalpel. It can destroy tumors with as much success as conventional surgery.
This is good news for patients with cancers that are hardest to treat, such as brain and spinal cancer, says Dr. Siavash Jabbari, medical director of the Laurel Amtower Cancer Institute and Neuro-Oncology Center at Sharp HealthCare. With these illnesses, accuracy is critical. Damage to any healthy tissues near this type of tumor can affect a person’s ability to move, feel, speak or think.
Radiosurgery is also a vital option for patients who can't have surgery because of the location of their tumor or other health factors, Dr. Jabbari says.
"It's the best of both worlds — in many cases, radiosurgery allows us to control tumors just as well as surgery, but without any of those risks," he says.
Like other forms of radiation therapy, the goal is to damage the DNA — and, in some cases, the blood supply — of tumor cells so they are unable to reproduce and grow. Over time, the tumor shrinks as cancer cells die off and are removed by the body's normal clean-up processes.
Because radiotherapy is so highly focused, only a few treatments are needed and serious side effects are rare.
Radiosurgery requires a collaborative approach, involving experts in neurosurgery, radiation oncology, medical physics and medical oncology, Jabbari says. At Sharp, doctors across specialties regularly meet to review patients under consideration for radiosurgery to determine if the therapy is right for them.
For now, doctors are only using radiosurgery to treat specific cancers, including early-stage lung and prostate cancer, in addition to brain and spinal cancer. However, researchers are exploring whether patients with other conditions — such as pancreatic cancer and head and neck tumors — could benefit from this treatment.
For the news media: To speak with Dr. Jabbari about radiosurgery for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.