The scientists report an 88 percent success rate for controlling the lesions. This is the first evidence that doctors can treat these tumours with radiation, and the results doubled the average length of survival.

"Radiation therapy has not been a recommended treatment for liver metastases because of the poor results when whole-liver radiation was used," said Alan Katz, M.D., M.P.H., lead researcher and assistant professor of Radiation Oncology. "High-dose, precision radiation therapy is proving to be a promising therapy for metastatic liver disease and provides an effective treatment option for patients who previously didn't have any."

The radiation oncologists at Rochester aim at expanding shaped-beam radiation therapy - originally designed to treat brain tumours - to target metastatic liver tumours with pinpoint accuracy.

Tumours in the liver are difficult to target using conventional radiation techniques because the organ moves during breathing. Shaped-beam radiation therapy, also known as stereotactic body radiation therapy, has expanded treatment options by delivering a high dose of radiation precisely to the tumour, while limiting the damage to healthy tissue surrounding the tumour.

In Rochester, doctors treated 72 patients with metastatic liver lesions between April 2001 and October 2004. Most of the patients had colorectal, breast, pancreatic, lung, genitourinary, esophageal and ovarian cancers, which had spread to the liver. The patients had a median of two lesions that ranged from 0.5 centimeters to 12.2 centimeters in diameter.

Doctors followed the patients' progress for an average of a year, though some were followed as long as three years, and the average survival was 13 months. "This is remarkable. For people who are facing this deadly disease, doubling the length of survival brings hope to our patients and that is so important," Katz said.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Rochester Medical Center