One of the biggest challenges in using radiation therapy to treat lung cancer is targeting the tumor. The goal is to deliver a safe, effective dose of radiation while minimizing incidental damage to surrounding, normal tissue in the lung, heart and esophagus. Dr. Lawrence Marks, a radiation oncologist at Duke University Medical Center, explains the challenge:
"Every direction you choose, there'll always be some dose going to some of the normal tissues. The problem we've had for the past 50 years in the treatment of lung cancer is that the normal tissues in and around the chest don't tolerate the radiation that well."
Marks says new 3-D imaging tools such as Positron Emission Tomography (PET) and SPECT scans help aim the radiation more accurately to better target the tumor and reduce the risk of collateral damage.
"There are also a series of drugs that are being investigated that, when given to patients during their radiation, might reduce or lessen the effects of the radiation on normal tissue. These are currently being studied in many places."
contact sources : Lawrence Marks