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Combination Radiation and Chemotherapy Successfully Treats Anal Cancer, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute Study Finds

PITTSBURGH, Nov. 3, 2010 – PET/CT based Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT), a radiation therapy technique that delivers precise radiation to tumors while sparing the surrounding normal tissue, may effectively control and treat cancers of the anus when combined with chemotherapy, according to researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI). The results of the research were presented this week at the American Society for Radiation Oncology annual meeting in San Diego.

The study, led by Regiane de Andrade, M.D., a resident of radiation oncology with UPMC Cancer Centers and overseen by Dwight E. Heron, M.D., associate professor and vice chairman of the Department of Radiation Oncology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, revealed that patients with anal carcinoma who had a diagnostic PET/CT as part of their radiation treatment planning had excellent response rates to treatment and experienced fewer overall toxicities.

“While treatment options for patients with anal cancers have come a long way, they can still be physically debilitating,” said Dr. de Andrade. “With IMRT we can decrease toxicities and improve patients’ compliance with treatment.”

The study reviewed the experiences of 31 patients treated for cancers of the anus at UPMC Cancer Centers between March 2003 and March 2009. All patients underwent PET/CT imaging before treatment to better assess the extent of their disease and to accurately identify the tumors to be targeted. All patients received chemotherapy concurrent with radiation, and all patients completed the planned treatment with few toxic side effects and excellent control of the disease.

The combination of PET/CT and IMRT allows for more accurate tumor localization for radiation delivery while reducing toxicity to the rest of the body, said Dr. de Andrade.

While chemoradiation has become the standard of care for treating patients with anal carcinoma, typically resulting in good disease control and the ability to avoid a colostomy, treatment-related toxicities can be significant and cause patients to delay or even cease treatment.

This study was funded by the Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.

As the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in western Pennsylvania, UPCI is a recognized leader in providing innovative cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment; bio-medical research; compassionate patient care and support; and community-based outreach services. UPCI investigators are world-renowned for their work in clinical and basic cancer research.

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