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Radiotherapy: a technological revolution is on the way

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OVER a century of history, and continuous innovations that have helped millions of cancer patients around the world. But radiotherapy does not rest on its laurels. Indeed, it is engaged in what promises to be an authentic revolution: a paradigm shift that allows you to customize treatment in an even more radical way, integrating genomics, artificial intelligence and clinical experience, to guarantee every patient, and every tumor , the best possible radiotherapy treatment. This is the message that comes from the annual congress of the Italian Association of Radiotherapy and Clinical Oncology (Airo), taking place in Bologna from today until next 17 October.

Genomics, radiomics and clinic to see the “infinitely small”

“Radiotherapy has totally changed – explains Vittorio Donato, Head of the Oncology and Specialist Medicines Department, Director of the Radiotherapy Division, AO San Camillo Forlanini of Rome and President of AIRO – both as a discipline and as regards its role in the treatment of tumors. Previously it was regarded as a palliative cure and was looked upon only as a complication; today it is one of the three pillars of oncological and onco-haematological treatments and has been updated along with pharmacological therapies ”. Precisely in these years – explains Donato – a new integration between genomics, radiomics and clinic is being born that allows the radiotherapist to see “the infinitely small”, details that otherwise would escape the human eye, and artificial intelligence programs are arriving that will help to build customized intervention models for the individual patient. Important news that are destined to improve treatment, and which are already at the center of many scientific studies which in many cases confirm excellent results in terms of efficacy and improvement of the quality of life of patients for numerous types of tumors.

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The role of AI

“For many years, radiotherapy has been based on clinical data, today it is increasingly based on biological data such as genomics, imaging understood as radiomics, and on artificial intelligence that helps us to integrate these data in the choice of treatment” , underlines Barbara Jereczek, Professor of Radiotherapy at the University of Milan and Coordinator of the AIRO Scientific Committee. “Through these state-of-the-art technologies it is possible to monitor changes in the patient’s body and tumor and adapt the treatment. If we are able to understand more from the images and arrive where the eye fails, we can better characterize the neoplasm and choose to intensify or de-intensify the treatment ”. Technological innovation, however precious, obviously cannot replace or ignore the human component. The radiotherapist oncologist, with his experience, still remains the cornerstone of radiotherapy treatment, and is a reference figure within the multidisciplinary team that takes care of the cancer patient: today the radiotherapist is called upon to treat more than 60% of patients with cancer, a percentage that will soon grow by more than 20%.

PNRR: 1.19 billion for new machines

The future of Italian oncology – the experts underlined – will necessarily also involve the modernization of the national machine park, with the aim of making the latest generation equipment available throughout the peninsula, to ensure fair access to the best radiotherapy treatments. . It is no coincidence that the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (PNRR) has allocated 1.19 billion euros for the purchase of 3,133 high-tech equipment, including linear accelerators for radiotherapy.

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