Novel treatments for lung metastases

There are some new treatments becoming more widely available on the NHS as well as in private healthcare clinics. So far, there is limited evidence of their long-term benefits to patients; however, it might be useful to discuss them with your medical team.


Stereotactic radiotherapy (cyberknife or gammaknife) for liver, lung or brain metastases

Stereotactic radiotherapy, also known as stereotactic ablative radiotherapy or SABR, works by delivering concentrated, high doses of radiation directly into the tumour using many individual beams of low dose radiation. These are aimed very precisely, to deliver the treatment from all sides at the same time.


image of nurse and patient with cyberknife

Unlike conventional radiotherapy, this treatment can be delivered in just a few, longer treatment sessions, or even in one single treatment – sometimes called radiosurgery. This technique spares the surrounding healthy tissue, reducing the risk of long-term damage or complications. This may make it a safe, alternative for patients who would not otherwise be well enough to have surgery to remove tumours, and for those who might not respond to other, conventional treatment options.


Microwave ablation

Microwave ablation of lung metastases uses heat to destroy cancer cells. A needle called a probe is inserted into each tumour, using imaging to guide it. The treatment can be repeated if there is more than one tumour, or for large tumours. Clinical trials suggest it works on about 50% of lung metastases with no sign of them coming back within 9 months. There are potential risks associated with this procedure including air or blood in the chest cavity and fistula formation.


Irreversible electroporation (IRE)

IRE aims to destroy cancer cells using short, repetitive, non-thermal high energy pulses of electricity, with less damage to nearby healthy tissue, such as major blood vessels, than other types of treatment. Special needles are then inserted through the skin in and around the tumour. Short pulses of electricity fire between the needles for several minutes. The needles may then be moved and the process repeated until the whole tumour and a small area of surrounding tissue is treated.