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Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)

Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy has revolutionized the way we treat many cancers including tumors involving the lung, pancreas, liver, spine, and head and neck region. SBRT can increase the chances of eradicating the tumor and minimize the risk of side effects from treatment.

SBRT treatments are available at Brigham and Women's Hospital's main campus, at Dana-Farber Brigham Cancer Center in clinical affiliation with South Shore Hospital and at Brigham and Women's/Study Memorial Radiation Oncology Center.

What is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)?

  • SBRT is a non-invasive therapy.
  • Treats tumors in the body, most commonly in the lung, liver, pancreas, bones, head and neck region, and kidney.
  • Involves 1–5 treatments (known as “fractions”) delivered via a high-tech radiation treatment machine called a linear accelerator (LINAC).

How does Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) work?

  • The tumor’s coordinates are pinpointed using imaging technology.
  • Beams of high dose radiation are directed very precisely to a tumor, using coordinates provided by imaging scans.
  • Photon radiation is delivered from many angles to focus at one point, similar to a magnifying glass.
  • Patients are immobilized during the procedure, for accurate targeting.

What are some advantages of Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT)?

  • It can be useful for treating patients for whom no options were previously available, including patients who are not candidates for surgery and patients who have already received prior radiation therapy.
  • It can be completed in just 1 to 2 weeks (instead of the 6-8 week course of treatment with conventional radiation therapy).
  • Uses many unique beams that are precisely shaped to deliver high-dose radiation to the tumor.
  • Minimizes side effects by reducing the dose of radiation to normal organs around the tumor - as only some of the individual beams pass through healthy tissue.
  • It is likely to eradicate the tumor (~90% chance for many disease sites).
  • The high level of precision allows for the safe delivery of much higher doses of radiation than can be accomplished with conventional fractionated radiation therapy.

Innovative Applications

What innovative research is happening at Brigham and Women’s Hospital?

Our team is constantly exploring innovative uses of advanced technologies to achieve improved patient outcomes. Here are three of the innovative protocols we are currently investigating with SBRT:

Combining Immunotherapy with SBRT
Lead physician: Jonathan Schoenfeld, MD, MPH

Experiments suggest that radiation may stimulate the immune system and help immune therapies work better to kill cancers throughout the body in both the areas that have received radiation and in other areas as well. This ongoing research is testing whether using SBRT to kill cancer cells can produce a vaccine-like effect and improve the likelihood of response as compared with immunotherapy alone.

Using SBRT to Treat Cancer that has Spread to the Bone
Lead physician: Tracy Balboni, MD, MPH

Cancers frequently involve the bone, where it can cause symptoms such as pain or fractures, or induce weakness by affecting nearby nerve structures. SBRT can treat bone tumors in a manner that is both dose intense to optimize tumor ablation and prevent recurrence, while being highly focused to avoid nearby normal tissues. This ongoing research is examining the efficacy of SBRT to treat tumors that have spread to bone, including outcomes of bone tumor control, patient symptoms and quality of life.

Testing MRI-Guided Linear Accelerator to deliver adaptive SBRT
Lead physicians: Jonathan Leeman, MD; Mai Anh Huynh, MD, PhD; Raymond Mak, MD
Veena Venkatachalam, MD, PhD

Cancers may move or change in size during treatment. Using our state-of-the-art MRI-Guided Linear Accelerator, we are testing a new form of SBRT that involves adapting the treatment plan every day in real-time for a variety of cancers. This approach may allow us to increase the radiation dose to the tumor while reducing exposure to surrounding organs to improve outcomes.

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