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Israeli Researchers Test AI-Based Radiation Methodology to Eradicate Aggressive Sarcoma Tumors

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Illustrative: Technicians carry out a diagnostic test for COVID-19 in a lab at Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Israel, on March 17, 2020. Photo: Yossi Aloni/Flash90

Israeli researchers at the country’s Rambam Hospital said that a new radiation program employing artificial intelligence shows the potential to almost completely eliminate certain aggressive cancerous tumors.

The group of doctors at Rambam’s radiation unit, located in the north of the country, created a high-intensity radiation program using a net method — dubbed GRID, for its net-like appearance – to attack malignant tumors that are inoperable or difficult to treat in a targeted manner.

The treatment is geared specifically for patients with sarcoma-type tumors, which are seen as especially aggressive and resistant to radiation and chemotherapy treatments. Some types of sarcoma tumors are also attached to vital organs, nerves, or blood vessels and therefore cannot be removed by surgery.

A study of the method on the first three Israeli patients was found to be effective in virtually eliminating the tumors, according to Dr. Salem Billan, Director of Radiation Oncology at Rambam, on Thursday.

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The first patient treated with the method was diagnosed with a tumor in his leg which was wrapped around the bone and large blood vessels, and thus could not be removed by surgery.

“Yaakov came to us after the tumor had reached more than 10 cm and could no longer walk,” said Dr. Billan. “We convened a multidisciplinary team and began to carefully plan the screenings. After the treatment, the tumor was greatly reduced and could be operated on.”

“The second case involved a 24-year-old woman. She arrived with a 10-cm tumor that was attached to the arteries. The initial treatment offered was a complete amputation of her leg, above the knee. However, after completing the innovative radiation treatment, the tumor was reduced to just three millimeters,” continued Dr. Billan.

The researchers noted that the standard treatment for sarcoma tumors includes 25 radiation treatments, with each treatment lasting between three and five minutes. The new, more accurate radiation method is applied once, before other treatments, and has been described as akin to a computed tomography (CT) scan, which is not painful.

“The methodology we have developed makes it possible to perform radiation along a specified path using a carefully calculated dose, while preserving the vital organs,” Dr. Billan concluded. “Given the success of the first cases, we believe it will be possible to use this treatment not only for sarcoma, but also for large metastases in other types of cancer.”

Commenting on the findings of the study, Dr. Alona Zer, chairman of the Israeli Sarcoma Association, said, “Soft tissue sarcomas are tumors that can appear anywhere in the body. These are rare tumors but there are 70 different types. They are usually very aggressive and prove to be a therapeutic challenge. This new methodology may improve patient prognoses and quality of life.”

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