Five years ago, cancer specialists in Southwest Florida began a study, taking a cutting edge radiation delivery system and using it on their patients with advanced gynecologic cancers who were otherwise out of options.
“The cancer stopped responding to chemotherapy or the disease was just too advanced otherwise to treat with a meaningful surgery,” says Dr. Constantine Mantz, a radiation oncologist on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.
This treatment was successful 80% of the time. Years of monitoring found it prevented recurrence or cured the women altogether. These results are putting Southwest Florida on the map.
“Where we’re so excited is that this is the first report of it ever being used in women with gynecologic cancer. Ovarian, uterine, fallopian tube, cervix or vagina,” says Dr. Jimmy Orr, a gynecological oncologist with Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.
The treatment is dependent on a machine that focuses a narrow field of radiation allowing doctors to target the cancer directly without affecting the surrounding tissue and organs.
“This treatment technology is something called stereotactic body radiation therapy. We can treat tumors in the body very precisely and accurately to very high doses of radiation that we cant achieve with any other form of therapy. Being able to deliver a much greater dosage of radiation we can substantially cut down the number of visits,” says Dr. Mantz.
Stereotactic body radiation was previously used for stable tumors including those in the prostate and brain, but was untried for female cancers.
“I think this really brings us into a whole new era of treatment by allowing us to use very precise technology and techniques. This relates to reproductive tract cancer and it’s the first report ever as it relates to using this technique in those women,” says Dr. Orr.
The next step is offering it to women with early stage disease. The doctors believe this may one day be the go-to procedure for gynecological cancers.