Predicting how patients react to radiotherapy

Radiotherapy for cancer treatment is met with varying side effects in patients. Developing blood tests that would allow clinicians to predict these responses would make radiotherapy a more comfortable treatment for all patients.

Radiotherapy is second only to surgery in its contribution to cancer survival and is used in almost half of cancer treatments. It uses high-energy radiation to destroy cancer cells and is carried out over multiple sessions over a period of time. This can be necessary before surgery to shrink a tumour, or after surgery to remove any remaining tumour. Though effective, patients do show a wide range of reactions to radiotherapy, and 5 out of 100 people show especially adverse effects.

Predicting an individual’s reponse to radiotherapy would help clinicians decide on the dosage to be used

Modern techniques have helped improve treatment and lower side effects. However it would be advantageous to be able predict a patient’s response to be able to personalise their treatment. For example, if it is known that a patient would have little side effects from radiotherapy, higher does of radiation could be used. On the other hand alternative treatments may be considered if a particularly adverse reaction is expected.

A study called REQUITE studies patients with lung, breast and prostate cancers. It aims to develop a type of blood test to be used to predict an individual’s response to radiotherapy.

The development of other tests for the same purpose would improve the chances of successful prediction, as clinicians will have more data to make a decision. Funding by Hope Against Cancer will allow the study of such other tests. Predicted values will be made from other tests studied and they will be tested for their reliability. This research will make radiotherapy a safer and more comfortable treatment.

This award of £6,990 was awarded to Dr Chris Talbot at the Department Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine and MRC Toxicology at the University of Leicester. The work will primarily be conducted by Dr Kerstie Johnson, who is a radiation oncologist. and is part of Hope’s funding of priority research in the new Leicester Centre of Excellence.

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