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Volume 22, Number 2, 2017

Radiobiology of stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)

Miquel Macià i Garau


Recent advances in the technology of radiotherapy have enabled the development of new therapeutic modalities that deliver radiation with very high accuracy, reduced margins and high dose conformation, allowing the reduction of healthy tissue irradiated and therefore minimizing the risk of toxicity. The next step was to increase the total tumor dose using conventional fractionation (which remains the best way to relatively radioprotect healthy tissues when large volumes are treated) or to use new fractionation schemes with greater biological effectiveness. Based on the experience gained in radiosurgery, the latter way was chosen for small and well-defined tumors in the body. Stereotactic body radiotherapy delivers high doses of radiation to small and well-defined targets in an extreme hypofractionated (and accelerated) scheme with a very high biological effectiveness obtaining very good initial clinical results in terms of local tumor control and acceptable rate of late complications. In fact, we realize a posteriori that it was not feasible to administer such biologically equivalent dose in a conventional fractionation because the treatment could last several months. So far, these new therapeutic modalities have been developed due to technologic advances in image guidance and treatment delivery but without a solid biological basis. It is the role of traditional radiobiology (and molecular radiobiology) to explain the effects of high doses of ionizing radiation on tumor and normal tissues. Only through a better understanding of how high doses of ionizing radiation act, clinicians will know exactly what we do, allowing us in the future to refine our treatments. This article attempts to describe through simple and understandable concepts the known aspects of the biological action of high doses of radiation on tumor and normal tissues, but it is clear that we need much more basic research to better understand the biology of high doses of radiation.

Signature: Rep Pract Oncol Radiother, 2017; 22(2) : 86-95

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