Radiation Therapy Principles

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What’s new in radiation therapy?

New ways of delivering radiation therapy are making it safer and more effective. Some of these methods are already being used, while others need more study before they can be approved for widespread use. And scientists around the world continue to look for better and different ways to use radiation to treat cancer. Here are just a few areas of current research interest:

Hyperthermia is the use of heat to treat cancer. Heat has been found to kill cancer cells, but when used alone it does not destroy enough cells to cure the cancer. Heat created by microwaves and ultrasound is being studied in combination with radiation and appears to improve the effect of the radiation. For more information, see our document called Hyperthermia to Treat Cancer.

Hyperbaric oxygen therapy consists of breathing pure oxygen while in a sealed chamber that’s been pressurized at 1½ to 3 times normal atmospheric pressure. It helps to increase the sensitivity of certain cancer types to radiation. It’s also being tested to see if it can reverse some of the damage to normal body tissues caused by radiation.

Radiosensitizers are a growing field in cancer treatment. Researchers are continuing to look for new substances that will make tumors more sensitive to radiation without affecting normal tissues.

Radioprotectors are substances that protect normal cells from radiation. These types of drugs are useful in areas where it’s hard not to expose vital normal tissues to radiation when treating a tumor, such as the head and neck area. Some radioprotectors, such as amifostine (Ethyol®), are already in use, while others are being studied in clinical trials.


Last Medical Review: 10/27/2014
Last Revised: 10/27/2014