A CANCER patient’s tumours were “completely eradicated” after he was given a new type of high-precision radiation in Glasgow that has been described as “game changing” by researchers.

The technique used to target tiny tumours in patients whose cancer has relapsed has been shown to extend survival and double the length of time before the disease progresses. 

The approach is based on the theory of ‘oligo-metastasis’ which suggests that there is an intermediate stage of cancer progression where the disease is no longer concentrated to just one organ but has not truly taken hold in other areas either.

At this point, the theory suggests it is treatable, and potentially even curable, overturning the traditional view that metastatic cancer is always terminal. 

The SABR-Comet study - published in the Lancet - is the first ever randomised trial to back up this theory. 

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Between February 2012 and August 2016, 99 adults patients were selected from 10 hospitals including the Beatson but also from centres in Canada, Australia and the Netherlands. 

Participants had various forms of cancer which had previously responded to treatment and relapsed, with metastatic lesions in up to five new locations and a minimum life expectancy of six months. 

A third of patients received standard palliative care while the other 66 underwent stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), a form of high-precision cancer therapy that delivers substantially higher doses of radiation to the tumour site in just one or a few treatment sessions.

The study found that overall survival was 41 months in the SABR group compared to 28 months for the control patients.

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Progression-free survival - the length of time before there is any evidence of the disease advancing - was also higher for the SABR group, at 12 months compared to six months. 

Of the 100 lesions in total treated in the SABR group, 44 were stable, 15 had shrunk and 16 had disappeared at the point of following-up around two years later. 

Albert Anderson, 83, from Dunure in Ayrshire had a cancerous lesion in his windpipe several years ago which was followed three years later with two small tumours in his lung.

Mr Anderson said: “Thanks to the trial, my cancer has been completely eradicated. My treatment has been excellent, just excellent.”

Dr Stephen Harrow, a researcher based at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre and co-author on the study, said: “Traditionally when a cancer has spread to other organs other than the original site of the disease patients were considered incurable.”

The researchers stress that further trials are needed to prove the effectiveness of the treatment, hone dosages and improve safety.