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Bone metastases: new pain therapy through radiation aims to improve quality of life and life expectancy

(Vienna, 5th March 2013) A major European study is set to get underway soon at the MedUni Vienna’s University Department of Nuclear Medicine. The study will investigate for the first time to what extent sources of alpha radiation can increase the quality of life and life expectancy of people with bone metastases. Experience so far involving substances with similar effects has been promising.

Breast, prostate and lung cancer in particular are commonly associated with bone metastases that can often cause severe pain and increase morbidity. As part of a clinical study at the MedUni Vienna taking place soon, sources of alpha radiation are set to be used for the first time to treat these dangerous malignant growths.

Helmut Sinzinger, Head of the University Department of Nuclear Medicine at the MedUni Vienna, part of the Vienna General Hospital, elaborates on the new generation of nuclear medical therapy: “Based on our preliminary data, we anticipate even greater effectiveness from the use of the new sources of alpha radiation. The reason for this is the radioactive isotope we will be using, radium 223. It appears to be even more effective than the sources of beta radiation we use currently and also has fewer side effects.”

During the study, the scientists will be investigating firstly to what extent the new sources of alpha radiation will be able to prolong life expectancy compared to sources of beta radiation. And secondly, the study will investigate whether the radium 223 isotope can help pain therapy for bone metastases be improved even further.

Fewer pain medications needed, stabilisation of bone metastases
The expectations of the new treatment are high. This is because researchers at the MedUni Vienna have been able to demonstrate for the first time using sources of beta radiation that have already been approved to treat bone metastasis pain that the life expectancy and quality of life of affected patients also improve considerably.

According to Sinzinger, affected patients’ quality of life is improved most importantly by the fact that fewer or no pain medications are required. The treatment also stabilises bone metastases, thereby improving life expectancy. The sources of alpha and beta radiation are administered intravenously and the injections are repeated at intervals of several weeks to a few months.