Stereotactic radiation highly effective for kidney cancer


Credit: UT Southwestern

DALLAS – May 2, 2017 – Kidney cancer patients may soon have more treatment choices that provide a higher quality of life, thanks to research completed by physician scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Their recent study showed that treating metastatic kidney cancer with an advanced and focused form of radiation called stereotactic ablative radiation therapy achieves more than 90 percent control of local tumors, and offers the possibility of safely delaying systemic therapy.

"This study shows that stereotactic radiation provides a good noninvasive alternative to conventional treatment such as surgery, and that it effectively controls the disease," said Dr. Raquibul Hannan, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology and co-Leader of the Kidney Cancer Program of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center and senior author of the study. "It may also offer an alternative to patients who are not candidates for surgery. Often due to the number and location of the metastases and sometimes due to other conditions, patients are not candidates for surgery."

The standard of care for metastatic renal cell carcinoma is systemic therapy, which can be associated with significant side effects like tiredness, fatigue, high blood pressure, and rash. These side effects can be significant and debilitating. According to Dr. Hannan, the new study shows that patients with metastatic kidney cancer can be treated with stereotactic radiation therapy with the goal of being cured, or to delay systemic therapy allowing patients to enjoy a better quality of life without the side effects of the drugs.

"This study, which represents, possibly, the largest experience reported in the literature, may also help medical oncologists, since stereotactic radiation could also be used for patients who have limited sites of disease progression while receiving systemic therapy," said Dr. Brugarolas, leader of the Kidney Cancer Program. It can also assist surgeons, since when kidney cancer has spread, the tumors are often not amenable to surgical removal.


The study is published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics. Limitations of this study include its retrospective nature and the relatively short follow-up.

The research was conducted in the Kidney Cancer Program, one of two programs in the country to be recognized with an $11 million SPORE (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) from the National Cancer Institute. As part of the SPORE, researchers are improving the ways in which radiation is given, by evaluating combinations with drugs and identifying those tumors that are most likely to respond. In particular, investigators are evaluating combinations with immunotherapy, iSABR – immunotherapy and Stereotatic Ablative Radiation Therapy. See video.

Nearly 400,000 Americans are now living with a diagnosis of kidney cancer and more than 60,000 people are expected to be diagnosed with kidney cancer this year, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Five-year survival rate averages run from 81 percent for stage 1, when cancer is contained in the kidney, to about 53 percent for stage 3, when it has spread beyond the kidney, and just 8 percent for stage 4, when the cancer spreads to more distant parts of the body or other organs. However, 5-year survival rates at the UT Southwestern's Kidney Cancer Program are double national benchmarks.

Additional UT Southwestern researchers involved in the study include Dr. Mu-Han Lin, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology; Dr. Jeffrey Meyer, Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology; Dr. Neil Desai, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology; Dr. Ivan Pedrosa, Associate Professor of Radiology in the Advanced Imaging Research Center; Dr. Vitaly Margulis, Associate Professor of Urology; Dr. Jeffrey Cadeddu, Professor of Urology and of Radiology; Dr. Arthur Sagalowsky, Professor of Urology; Dr. Jeffrey Gahan, Assistant Professor of Urology; Dr. Aaron Laine, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology; Dr. Xian-Jin Xie, Professor of Clinical Science; Dr. Hak Choy, Chair of Radiation Oncology; Dr. James Brugarolas, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine and Director of the Kidney Cancer Program; and Dr. Robert Timmerman, Professor of Radiation Oncology and of Neurological Surgery.

Dr. Timmerman holds the Effie Marie Cain Distinguished Chair in Cancer Therapy Research. Dr. Pedrosa holds the Jack Reynolds, M.D., Chair in Radiology. Dr. Choy holds The Nancy B. and Jake L. Hamon Distinguished Chair in Therapeutic Oncology Research. Dr. Cadeddu holds the Ralph C. Smith, M.D. Distinguished Chair in Minimally Invasive Urologic Surgery. Dr. Sagalowsky holds the Cissy and W. Plack Carr, Jr. Professorship in Medical Education. Dr. Desai is a Dedman Family Scholar in Clinical Care. Dr. Brugarolas is a Virginia Murchison Linthicum Endowed Scholar in Medical Research.

The Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in North Texas and one of just 47 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center includes 13 major cancer care programs. In addition, the Center's education and training programs support and develop the next generation of cancer researchers and clinicians. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center is among only 30 U.S. cancer research centers to be designated by the NCI as a National Clinical Trials Network Lead Academic Participating Site.

About UT Southwestern Medical Center

UT Southwestern, one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation, integrates pioneering biomedical research with exceptional clinical care and education. The institution's faculty has received six Nobel Prizes, and includes 22 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 18 members of the National Academy of Medicine, and 14 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigators. The faculty of more than 2,700 is responsible for groundbreaking medical advances and is committed to translating science-driven research quickly to new clinical treatments. UT Southwestern physicians provide care in about 80 specialties to more than 100,000 hospitalized patients, 600,000 emergency room cases, and oversee approximately 2.2 million outpatient visits a year.


This news release is available on our website at

To automatically receive news releases from UT Southwestern via email, subscribe at

Media Contact

UT Southwestern Communications Team
[email protected]