News Release: Emory Healthcare , Research , Winship Cancer Institute

Jun. 14,  2010

Winship Cancer Institute Offers Innovative Spinal Radiosurgery Clinical Trial

The Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is participating in a national clinical trial involving image-guided radiosurgery for spine metastasis.

Winship joins a select group of cancer treatment centers in offering this trial, including the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Duke University, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.

"This is an important study that we hope will lead to more effective treatment for spinal metastases with fewer side effects," says Walter J. Curran Jr, MD, executive director of Winship. "The impact on patients' quality of life is a serious issue, and while previous studies have looked at partial pain relief, we hope the more advanced radiosurgery techniques will provide more effective and lasting pain control."

Metastasis is the movement or spread of a cancer to a secondary site within the body. Spine metastases are a common complication of many types of cancer. While similar to other bone metastases, spine metastases have unique and problematic features, one of which is spinal bone pain.

An additional problem is that these metastases can present with a soft tissue mass resulting in epidural compression. Patients with spinal metastases have severe back pain, often with associated neurological problems.

Despite the prevalence of spine metastases, there have been few clinical studies on effectiveness of radiation therapy treatment. Part of the problem has been the difficulty in attacking tumor masses in such close proximity to the spinal cord.

In recent years, radiosurgery or stereotactic radiation has emerged as an innovative treatment thanks to improvements in technology and techniques. Emory recently marked its 20th anniversary of delivering radiosurgery for patients with brain tumors.

This clinical trial, sponsored nationally by the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group, is known as RTOG 0631, and is divided into two phases. The first will assess the experience and efficacy of spinal radiosurgery for patients with spinal metastases.

The second component will seek to determine whether spinal radiosurgery improves the treatment outcome - specifically pain control - better than traditional radiotherapy techniques. The study will test the frequency of complete or partial pain relief at the treated site over a three-month period. Established quality of life measures will be used to define the level of pain control.

For more information on this clinical trial, contact: Doshia James, Clinical Research Coordinator, at 404-778-5162. 

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The Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center of Emory University is an academic health science and service center focused on missions of teaching, research, health care and public service.

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