Skin cancer is a horrible diagnosis that impacts millions of people a year. When it hits it can be a devastating disease that traditionally leads to very few options outside of surgery and chemotherapy. For some this could be just as awful as the diagnosis itself, taking an enormous toll on the physical and mental health of the patient. The bad news is that there is no slow down in skin cancer diagnoses. The good news is that there are alternative, modern day therapies that can help with less down time, fewer side effects, and more precise treatment. These are stereotactic radiosurgery (SRS) and stereotactic radiation therapy (SRT).
Both are, as described by the notable Stony Brook Cancer Center, “advanced and modernized forms of radiation therapy. They allow us to deliver high dose radiation to a small focused area. This specialized form of radiation treatment involves a team of specialists. This team includes neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, radiologists, radiation physicists, radiation therapists and nurses.”
But what are these therapies, really, and how do they work?
How SRT Works for Skin Cancer
SRT, which is short for stereotactic radiation therapy, is a technology that can treat non-melanoma forms of skin cancer. These are basal cell and squamous cell cancers, both of which are most frequently caused by long-term UV radiation damage after sun exposure or tanning beds. Both of these cancers can be deadly, but are not as deadly as melanoma, which SRT cannot treat. As noted by CBS News, in a story they published, “The treatment uses very focused, low-dose radiation that only goes skin-deep to stop cancer cells from spreading. Patients receive a series of short (30 second) treatments, usually once or twice a week over a series of weeks. It’s performed in a doctor’s office by a dermatologist trained and certified in using SRT. It does not involve anesthesia or an incision and the side effects tend to be mild, including some redness and irritation at the treated site.”
The progression of treatment options is continuing to evolve. On August 2, 2018, the following press release was issued:
BOCA RATON, Fla., Aug. 2, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — Sensus Healthcare, Inc. (NASDAQ: SRTS), a medical device company specializing in the non-invasive treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers (NMSC) and keloids with Image-Guided Superficial Radiation Therapy (IGST), today announced that the Company has received 501(k) clearance from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to market its new SRT-100+, the next-generation Superficial Radiation Therapy solution that adds several innovative features to Sensus’ existing SRT-100 product.
On October 3, 2018 the launch of a retrospective study (clinical trial) on SRT was announced through the US National Library of Medicine to evaluate its efficacy of “SRT-100™ therapy on NMSC lesions over a long-term post-treatment period.” The study is estimated to have just closed and results should be published by the time of SCALE 2019 Music City, or at least available for review and discussion. Details of that study are as follows:
- Study Type: Observational
- Estimated Enrollment: 100 Participants
- Observational Model: Cohort
- Time Perspective: Retrospective
- Official Title: A Retrospective Registry Study to Evaluate the Long-Term Efficacy and Safety of Superficial Radiation Therapy (SRT) in Individuals with Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer (NMSC)
- Estimated Study Start Date: November 15, 2018
- Estimated Primary Completion Date: February 16, 2019
- Estimated Study Completion Date: February 16, 2019
How SRS Works
Stereotactic radiosurgery uses the most precise possible form of radiation therapy that can be delivered. It was originally developed as a treatment for brain tumors and other brain malfunctions. The radiation is targeted to accuracy within one to two millimeters. The technology has advanced to now being used for other tumors, such as skin cancer, through which the procedure is called stereotactic body radiotherapy (or SBRT). This is a non-surgical procedure. It is designed to deliver very high doses of radiation in a few (or single) treatments. This is highly desirable when compared to the more common radiation therapy that is delivered over a long period of time. The development of new technologies make this a possibility, as they target precisely the tumor and destroy it without impacting the tissue surrounding the tumor. (source).
According to the American Cancer Society there are two ways SRS is delivered:
- In one version, a machine called a Gamma Knife® focuses about 200 beams of radiation on the tumor from different angles over a few minutes to hours. The head is kept in the same position by placing it in a rigid frame.
- In another version, a linear accelerator (a machine that creates radiation) that is controlled by a computer moves around the head to deliver radiation to the tumor from many different angles over a few minutes. The head is kept in place with a head frame or a plastic face mask.
Incorporating SRS and SRT Into Your Practice
You don’t have to be a cancer center to treat cancer with the best technologies available. You just need to be trained, qualified, and prepared. One of the first steps you can take is to learn more about skin cancer and how these treatments can help. The Tennessee Society for Laser Medicine can help provide you with the education and resources you need.