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Research identifies risks in types of radiation therapy

Category: Cancer Detection and Tumor Markers

A type of whole-brain radiation therapy for patients with brain tumors, though successful in treating the tumor, may be harmful to learning and memory function, research suggests.

A study which will appear in the November issue of The Lancet Oncology compares the effects of administering standard stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) to the consequences of adding whole-brain radiation therapy (WBRT) to the regimen, HealthDay News reports.

After one year, 73 percent of patients given the SRS/WBRT treatment did not experience recurring symptoms of brain cancer, while only 27 percent of the SRS group were symptom-free. However, the trial was stopped early because researchers determined that members of the SRS/WBRT group were 96 percent more likely to experience significant deterioration in memory and learning function after four months.

Dr Eric L. Chang of the University of Texas Anderson Cancer Center commented on the advisability of circumventing these side effects of treatment by monitoring tumors through lab testing.

"Applicability of the findings is dependent on the willingness of patients and their physicians to adhere to a schedule of close monitoring, having consistent access to high-quality MRI, having access to a neurosurgical team applying strict physics quality-assurance procedures for SRS," Chang wrote.

The National Cancer Institute's investment in brain cancer research has increased from $111.5 million in 2003 to $148.2 million in 2007.

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