Reducing Patient Waiting Times for Radiation Therapy and Improving the Treatment Planning Process:

Babshov, V. et al. Clinical Oncology. Published online: 19 February 2017



  • Modelling of an entire radiotherapy planning process at a cancer treatment facility.
  • Bottleneck analysis and resource level impact quantification to reduce waiting times.
  • Additional dosimetrist improved the mean waiting time by 6.5%.
  • Removing one physicist dramatically worsened the waiting time.
  • Applicability and transportability of the model to other facilities.

Read the full abstract here

Preoperative conventional chemoradiotherapy versus short-course radiotherapy with delayed surgery for rectal cancer

Latkauskas, T. et al. BMC Cancer. Published: 1 December 2016
Image source: Richard Kirsch and Raw’n’ Wild – Wellcome Images // CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Background: There still is no evidence which neoadjuvant therapy regimen for stage II–III rectal cancer is superior. The aim of this study was to compare results achieved after long-course chemoradiotherapy (CRT) with short-term radiotherapy (RT) followed by delayed surgery.


Conclusion: Three-years disease-free survival was better in CRT group comparing with RT group with no difference in overall survival.

Read the full article here

Patterns of Referral to Radiation Oncology among Patients with Bladder Cancer

Quirt, J. S. et al. Clinical Oncology. Published online: 6 November 2016
Image source: Wellcome Images // CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Image shows photomicrograph of adenocarcinoma of the bladder


  • Guidelines support either cystectomy or radiotherapy for invasive bladder cancer.
  • This population-based study describes referral patterns to radiation oncology.
  • One third of patients with bladder cancer were referred to radiation oncology.
  • Only 10% of patients were seen by radiation oncology postoperatively.
  • Closer collaboration between radiation oncology and urology is warranted.

Read the abstract here

Radiotherapy gets the investment it needs

Samuel, E. Cancer Research UK – Science Blog. Published online: 25 October 2016

NHS Refresh

Today NHS England announced that it will invest £130m over the next couple of years in new radiotherapy machines.

This is great news. Especially when research has shown that for some types of cancer, more advanced radiotherapy techniques – which the newer machines can provide – are what patients need.

It was around 4 years ago that we first raised the issue that England’s radiotherapy machines were becoming out of date and needed to be replaced. A point we’ve raised time and time again since.

So we were pleased when support for buying new machines featured in England’s cancer strategy, published last year.

And it’s fantastic that the NHS is now dedicating money to this unsung hero of cancer treatment.

Read the full blog post here


Making Radiation Therapy for Prostate Cancer More Economical and More Convenient

Zietman, A.L. Journal of Clinical Oncology. July 10, 2016 vol. 34 no. 20 2323-2324

N0037758 Radiographer with a Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy unit
Image source: David Bishop, Royal Free Hospital London – Wellcome Images // CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Why is radiation therapy not simply given in one large dose? This is a question that patients often ask of their radiation oncologists. The answer is simple: it could be, but such a dose would be equally damaging to the cancer and to the normal tissues within the radiation field. It would, essentially, be ablative, and this is an outcome that can easily be achieved by many other methods of energy delivery, not to mention surgery. In the early twentieth century, the pioneers of radiation therapy discovered empirically that fractionating the radiation—delivering it in multiple smaller doses to a higher total dose—not only preserved the power of the treatment to eradicate the tumor, but did so while better maintaining the integrity of the nearby normal tissues. Our increased understanding of radiation biology has given a scientific rationale to support fractionation, and radiation therapy became the cornerstone of the nonablative, organ-preserving strategies that we so commonly use today in breast, head and neck, and, of course, prostate cancer. Over the decades, small, daily fractions of 1.8 Gy to 2.0 Gy were recognized as safe, and these doses became customary throughout much of the world. Treatment courses are currently protracted out to ≤ 8 weeks, a time frame that is certainly inconvenient for many but a small price for a patient to pay for a treatment whose legacy may last a lifetime.

Read the full article here

Environmental and social benefits of the targeted intraoperative radiotherapy for breast cancer

Coombs, N.J. et al. BMJ Open 2016. 6:e010703. 


Objective: To quantify the journeys and CO2 emissions if women with breast cancer are treated with risk-adapted single-dose targeted intraoperative radiotherapy (TARGIT) rather than several weeks’ course of external beam whole breast radiotherapy (EBRT) treatment.

Setting: (1) TARGIT-A randomised clinical trial (ISRCTN34086741) which compared TARGIT with traditional EBRT and found similar breast cancer control, particularly when TARGIT was given simultaneously with lumpectomy, (2) 2 additional UK centres offering TARGIT.

Participants: 485 UK patients (249 TARGIT, 236 EBRT) in the prepathology stratum of TARGIT-A trial (where randomisation occurred before lumpectomy and TARGIT was delivered simultaneously with lumpectomy) for whom geographical data were available and 22 patients treated with TARGIT after completion of the TARGIT-A trial in 2 additional UK breast centres.

Outcome measures: The shortest total journey distance, time and CO2 emissions from home to hospital to receive all the fractions of radiotherapy.

Methods: Distances, time and CO2 emissions were calculated using Google Maps and assuming a fuel efficiency of 40 mpg. The groups were compared using the Student t test with unequal variance and the non-parametric Wilcoxon rank-sum (Mann-Whitney) test.

Results: TARGIT patients travelled significantly fewer miles: TARGIT 21 681, mean 87.1 (SE 19.1) versus EBRT 92 591, mean 392.3 (SE 30.2); had lower CO2 emissions 24.7 kg (SE 5.4) vs 111 kg (SE 8.6) and spent less time travelling: 3 h (SE 0.53) vs 14 h (SE 0.76), all p<0.0001. Patients treated with TARGIT in 2 hospitals in semirural locations were spared much longer journeys (753 miles, 30 h, 215 kg CO2 per patient).

Conclusions: The use of TARGIT intraoperative radiotherapy for eligible patients with breast cancer significantly reduces their journeys for treatment and has environmental benefits. If widely available, 5 million miles (8 000 000 km) of travel, 170 000 woman-hours and 1200 tonnes of CO2 (a forest of 100 hectares) will be saved annually in the UK.

Read the full article here


Radiotherapy more effective than chemotherapy for early stage II testicular cancer

European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO). ScienceDaily. Published online: 2 May 2016.
Image source: Wellcome Images // CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Image of photomicrograph showing testicular seminoma.

A large study of testicular cancer patients has shown that radiation therapy is a better treatment than chemotherapy for patients with stage IIa disease (where one or more regional lymph nodes contain cancer cells but they are less than 2cms in diameter).

These findings, presented at the ESTRO 35 conference today (Monday) and published simultaneously in Clinical Oncology, are important because, until now, there has been little evidence about which treatment for testicular seminoma is more effective, and there has been a tendency to move away from radiation therapy towards chemotherapy for treating stage IIa-b patients. Guidelines from the US National Cancer Comprehensive Network recommend radiotherapy for stage IIa, while those from the European Association of Urology allow for either radiation therapy or chemotherapy; both sets of guidelines are equivocal for stage IIb.

The study of 2,437 patients presented today is the largest group of patients with stage II testicular seminoma evaluated so far, and researchers found that 99% of patients with IIa disease were alive after five years if they had been treated with radiation therapy, versus 93% of patients treated with chemotherapy. For patients with IIb disease, the five-year overall survival was 95% for those treated with radiation therapy and 92% for those treated with chemotherapy.

Read the full commentary here

Read the original research abstract here

Radiation therapy chemotherapy combination improves survival in adults with low-grade brain cancer

ScienceDaily. Published online: 7th April 2016
Image source: Wellcome Images // CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

Image shows magnetic resonance imaging scan showing cystic cerebellar astrocytoma.

Patients with a low-grade type of brain tumor called glioma who received radiation therapy plus a chemotherapy regimen, including procarbazine, lomustine and vincristine (PCV), experienced a longer progression-free survival and overall survival than patients who received radiation therapy alone, according to the results of the clinical trial.

Between October 1998 and June 2002, 251 patients with low-grade glioma were enrolled in the RTOG 9802 trial. Patients enrolled were at high risk, compared to other patients with low-grade glioma, because they were 40 or older, or had a less-than-complete surgical removal of their tumor.

Patients were randomized to 1 of 2 trial arms, radiation therapy plus six cycles of PCV chemotherapy or radiation therapy alone. Before treatment, researchers conducted a pathology review on tumor samples and prepared for samples for correlative laboratory studies to assess mutational status and identify prognostic variables.

At a median follow-up time of 11.9 years, 67 percent of enrolled patients were identified as having tumor progression, and 55 percent of patients had died. Patients in the radiation therapy plus PCV chemotherapy arm had longer median survival times, compared with those in the trial arm who received radiation therapy alone (13.3 versus 7.8 years, respectively; p=0.003). Median progression- free survival time for patients receiving radiation therapy plus PCV chemotherapy versus radiation therapy alone was 10.4 years and 4.0 years, respectively. Ten-year, progression-free survival and overall survival rates for patients in the radiation therapy plus PCV chemotherapy arm versus those in the radiation therapy alone arm were 51 percent versus 21 percent and 60 percent versus 40 percent, respectively.

Read the full commentary here

Read the research article abstract here

Risk of second cancers in the era of modern radiation therapy: does the risk/benefit analysis overcome theoretical models?

Chargari, C. et al. Cancer and Metastasis Reviews. pp 1-12. First online: 12 March 2016

N0037758 Radiographer with a Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy unit
Image source: David Bishop, Royal Free Hospital London – Wellcome Images

In the era of modern radiation therapy, the compromise between the reductions in deterministic radiation-induced toxicities through highly conformal devices may be impacting the stochastic risk of second malignancies.

We reviewed the clinical literature and evolving theoretical models evaluating the impact of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) on the risk of second cancers, as a consequence of the increase in volumes of normal tissues receiving low doses.

The risk increase (if any) is not as high as theoretical models have predicted in adults. Moreover, the increase in out-of-field radiation doses with IMRT could be counterbalanced by the decrease in volumes receiving high doses. Clinical studies with short follow-up have not corroborated the hypothesis that IMRT would drastically increase the incidence of second cancers. In children, the risk of radiation-induced carcinogenesis increases from low doses and consequently the relative risk of second cancers after IMRT could be higher than in adults, justifying current developments of proton therapy with priority given to this population.

Although only longer follow-up will allow a true assessment of the real impact of these modern techniques on radiation-induced carcinogenesis, a comprehensive risk-adapted strategy will help minimize the probability of second cancers.

Read the abstract here

Wide Variation in the Use of Radiotherapy in the Management of Surgically Treated Rectal Cancer Across the English National Health Service

Morris, E. J. A. et al. Clinical Oncology. Available online: 28 February 2016

Aims: Radiotherapy is an important treatment modality in the multidisciplinary management of rectal cancer. It is delivered both in the neoadjuvant setting and postoperatively, but, although it reduces local recurrence, it does not influence overall survival and increases the risk of long-term complications. This has led to a variety of international practice patterns. These variations can have a significant effect on commissioning, but also future clinical research. This study explores its use within the large English National Health Service (NHS).

Materials and methods: Information on all individuals diagnosed with a surgically treated rectal cancer between April 2009 and December 2010 were extracted from the Radiotherapy Dataset linked to the National Cancer Data Repository. Individuals were grouped into those receiving no radiotherapy, short-course radiotherapy with immediate surgery (SCRT-I), short-course radiotherapy with delayed surgery (SCRT-D), long-course chemoradiotherapy (LCCRT), other radiotherapy (ORT) and postoperative radiotherapy (PORT). Patterns of use were then investigated.

Results: The study consisted of 9201 individuals; 4585 (49.3%) received some form of radiotherapy. SCRT-I was used in 12.1%, SCRT-D in 1.2%, LCCRT in 29.5%, ORT in 4.7% and PORT in 2.3%. Radiotherapy was used more commonly in men and in those receiving an abdominoperineal excision and less commonly in the elderly and those with comorbidity. Significant and substantial variations were also seen in its use across all the multidisciplinary teams managing this disease.

Conclusion: Despite the same evidence base, wide variation exists in both the use of and type of radiotherapy delivered in the management of rectal cancer across the English NHS. Prospective population-based collection of local recurrence and patient-reported early and late toxicity information is required to further improve patient selection for preoperative radiotherapy.

Read the abstract here