Cancer researchers from UT Southwestern Medical Center report that a clinical trial that combined stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) with erlotinib, a chemotherapy regimen, more than doubled survival rates for certain stage 4 lung cancer patients.

The combination improved overall survival time to 20 months compared to historic 6- to 9-month survival times among erlotinib-only treated patients. The combination also improved progression free survival from the historical 2 to 4 months to 14.7 months for similarly selected ptients.

The Phase 2 clinical trial involved 24 patients with stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) whose cancer has continued to spread during their initial therapy. A UT Southwestern Medical Center news release notes Puneeth Iyengar, MD, first author of the paper, explains that these patients typically have poor survival rates and SBRT is not commonly used in these patients. SBRT technique is a type of radiation therapy where few very high doses of radiation are delivered from multiple angles to small, well-defined tumors.

Robert Timmerman, MD, states, “Our approach dramatically changed the pattern of relapse. We saw a shift in failure from existing, local sites to new, distant sites. This shift resulted in a surprisingly long remission from the reappearance of cancer in treated patients.” He adds, “Technologies have developed in the last few years that have yielded game-changing, paradigm-shifting approaches, allowing us to reconsider how radiation is delivered in combination with surgery, chemotherapy, and other systemic therapies.”

Timmerman says, “I am motivated by the need I see every day in the clinic to provide better treatments for our patients.”

Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center