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Cancers (Basel). 2013 Sep 25;5(4):1199-211. doi: 10.3390/cancers5041199.

Three-times daily ultrafractionated radiation therapy, a novel and promising regimen for glioblastoma patients.

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Neuro-Oncology Department, CHU de Nancy, Hospital Central, Nancy 54035, France.


Glioblastomas are considered to be one of the most radio resistant tumors. Despite new therapies, the prognosis of this disease remains dismal. Also, the mechanisms of radiation resistance in mammalian cells are more complex than once believed. Experimental studies have indicated that some human cell lines are sensitive to low radiation doses of <1 Gy. This phenomenon has been termed low-dose hyper-radio-sensitivity (HRS), and is more apparent in radio resistant cell lines, such as glioblastoma cells. Sensitivity may result from the inability of low dose radiation to efficiently induce repair mechanisms, whereas higher doses cause enough damage to trigger repair responses for radio resistance. In vitro studies have demonstrated this phenomenon using various human malignant glioma cell lines: (1) daily repeated irradiation of cells with low doses compared to irradiation using a single biologically equivalent dose resulted in significantly higher cell killing; (2) experiments conducted on glioma xenografts demonstrated that repeated irradiation with low doses was more effective for inhibiting tumor growth than a single dose. In order to confirm and validate these promising studies on HRS, a few phase II trials were developed. For translating the experimental observations into the clinic, ultra fractionation protocols (with three daily doses) were tested in glioblastoma patients. Tolerance and toxicity were the primary endpoints, with overall survival as a secondary endpoint. These protocols were initiated before concomitant radio chemotherapy became the standard of care. For these trials, patients with an unfavorable clinical prognostic factor of newly unresectable GBM were included. When comparing the results of these trials with international literature using multivariate analysis for both progression free survival and overall survival, ultra fractionated irradiation showed superiority over radiotherapy alone. In addition, it was found to be equivalent to treatment using radiotherapy and temozolomide. Therefore, ultra fractionated protocols may prolong survival of glioblastoma patients. In this review, we describe the main experimental data regarding low-dose hypersensitivity as well as the findings of clinical trials that have investigated this new radiotherapy regimen.

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