Novel stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT)-based partial tumor irradiation targeting hypoxic segment of bulky tumors (SBRT-PATHY): improvement of the radiotherapy outcome by exploiting the bystander and abscopal effects

Radiat Oncol. 2019 Jan 29;14(1):21. doi: 10.1186/s13014-019-1227-y.


Background: Despite the advances in oncology, patients with bulky tumors have worse prognosis and often receive only palliative treatments. Bulky disease represents an important challenging obstacle for all currently available radical treatment options including conventional radiotherapy. The purpose of this study was to assess a retrospective outcome on the use of a newly developed unconventional stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) for PArtial Tumor irradiation of unresectable bulky tumors targeting exclusively their HYpoxic segment (SBRT-PATHY) that exploits the non-targeted effects of radiotherapy: bystander effects (local) and the abscopal effects (distant).

Materials and methods: Twenty-three patients with bulky tumors received partial bulky irradiation in order to induce the local non-targeted effect of radiation (bystander effect). The hypoxic tumor segment, called the bystander tumor volume (BTV), was defined using PET and contrast-enhanced CT, as a hypovascularized-hypometabolic junctional zone between the central necrotic and peripheral hypervascularized-hypermetabolic tumor segment. Based on tumor site and volume, the BTV was irradiated with 1-3 fractions of 10-12 Gy prescribed to 70% isodose-line. The pathologic lymph nodes and metastases were not irradiated in order to assess the distant non-targeted effects of radiation (abscopal effect). No patient received any systemic therapy.

Results: At the time of analysis, with median follow-up of 9.4 months (range: 4-20), 87% of patients remained progression-free. The bystander and abscopal response rates were 96 and 52%, respectively. Median shrinkage of partially irradiated bulky tumor expressing intensity of the bystander effect was 70% (range 30-100%), whereas for the non-irradiated metastases (intensity of the abscopal effect), it was 50% (range 30-100%). No patient experienced acute or late toxicity of any grade.

Conclusions: SBRT-PATHY showed very inspiring results on exploitation of the radiation-hypoxia-induced non-targeted effects that need to be confirmed through our ongoing prospective trial. Present study has been retrospectively registered by the local ethic committee under study number A 26/18.

Keywords: Abscopal; Bulky; Bystander; Hypoxia; Novel; Oligometastases; Partial; SBRT.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bystander Effect*
  • Dose Fractionation, Radiation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / pathology
  • Hypoxia / radiotherapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Organs at Risk / radiation effects
  • Prognosis
  • Radiosurgery / methods*
  • Radiotherapy Dosage
  • Radiotherapy Planning, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Research Design
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tumor Burden