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SBRT for Pancreatic Cancer

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BALTIMORE. (Ivanhoe Newswire) – Stereotactic body radiation, or SBRT, is a radiation therapy designed to treat tumors and protect healthy tissue at the same time. It's been used successfully in patients with lung, brain and spinal cord tumors. But now, researchers say SBRT may also help some patients with pancreatic cancer, traditionally one of the deadliest and most difficult cancers to treat.

Lorri and Randall Swan are tough opponents on the court, but at home they work as a team researching every option to fight Randall's pancreatic cancer.

Randall told Ivanhoe, "It will come back haunt you if you don't hit it with as big a hammer as you can."

In some ways, Randall says he's extremely lucky. Doctors caught it early, which is rare for this type of cancer.

"To put it into perspective, this tumor is only about half the size of a small pea, not a whole lot, but it was strategically located that it caused me symptoms," said Randall.

Radiation Oncologist at Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore, Joseph Herman, MD, MSc, is studying the use of SBRT in pancreatic patients. By mapping the exact location of the tumor, experts deliver a precise dose every day for just five days.

Dr. Herman said, "Because we can deliver a short course of radiation with very minimal toxicity, this allows radiation to be added to other therapies."

He also said in some patients the SBRT reduced the size of the tumor, and made surgery an option. For a few, the SBRT wiped out the tumor.

"That was pretty shocking for us because we didn't expect that dose of radiation to completely eradicate the cancer," explained Dr. Herman.

Randall had surgery to remove the cancer, followed by SBRT.  He is cancer-free, for now.

Dr. Herman says the SBRT treatment isn't for all patients with pancreatic cancer. People with cancers larger than three inches or have a tumor invading the bowel area or stomach usually can't get SBRT because of the risk to normal tissue.