When a 61-year-old woman died recently after having received an accepted targeted treatment—known as stereotactic body-radiation therapy—doctors had to start re-thinking both the radiation dose and the treatment itself.
Months after she’d received the treatment for early-stage adenocarcinoma, a type of non-small cell lung cancer, the woman came back suffering. Doctors found not only that her cancer had metastasized but also that a large portion of healthy tissue in her airway had been destroyed by the radiation. They then treated her with chemotherapy rather than radiation, but she died anyway a few months later.
Despite doctors following accepted protocol, the patient died. It took courage to report this case, according to the US News and Health article. Even though this incident is about a single patient, having it on the record can help other doctors think more carefully about how and how much to use this increasingly popular therapy.
Let us hope physicians are all as brave and forthcoming if and when they discover dangerous or devastating side effects from the new nanoparticle-based targeted cancer therapy techniques.