- Radiation Therapy Principles
- How does radiation work to treat cancer?
- Types of radiation used to treat cancer
- Goals of radiation therapy
- Who gives radiation treatments?
- How is radiation given?
- External beam radiation
- Internal radiation therapy (brachytherapy)
- Safety for the patient and family
- Possible side effects of radiation therapy
- Side effects of radiation to specific areas
- Second cancers
- Other general health concerns
- What’s new in radiation therapy?
- To learn more
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.
Radiosensitizers are drugs that make cancer cells more sensitive to radiation. Some chemotherapy drugs already in use (such as 5-fluorouracil or 5-FU) are known to be radiosensitizers. Researchers are trying to find 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: 09/07/2012
Last Revised: 12/18/2012