A PENSIONER had his tumours eradicated after participating in a world-wide trial to test a new treatment for patients whose cancer has spread and would normally be considered incurable.

Albert Anderson, 83, from Dunure in Ayrshire was one of 99 cancer patients who took part in the study into how tiny metastatic tumours respond to a high-precision form of radiotherapy.

Seven years ago, Mr Anderson was treated for a cancerous lesion in his windpipe.

Although he responded to treatment, three years later the cancer returned and spread in the form of two small tumours in his lung.

These were targeted by stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), which can deliver substantially higher doses of radiation to the tumour site without damaging surrounding tissue.

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

"I am still attending Dr Harrow’s clinic firstly every three months and then every six. They now only need to see me back once a year which is good and I feel fine.

“I hope the treatment this trial brings become normal for everyone and brings hope to those with secondary cancers.”

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Patients at Glasgow's Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre were the only people in the UK to take part in the study, known as SABR-Comet.

However, the results have been hailed by researchers as potentially game-changing in terms of how patient with advanced cancer could be treated.

On average, SABR extended survival by 13 months and doubled the length of time before the disease relapses.

The approach is based on the theory of 'oligo-metastasis', first formally outlined in 1995, 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 new SABR-Comet study - published in the Lancet - is the first ever randomised control trial to back up this theory.

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 but relapsed, with metastatic lesions in up to five new locations and a minimum life expectancy of six months.

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The metastatic lesions were mostly in bone, liver, lung, and adrenal glands.

A third of patients received standard palliative care while the other 66 underwent SABR.

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

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.

Dr Stephen Harrow, a researcher based at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre and co-author on the study, said: “We are very excited about these results and I truly believe it could be a game-changer for many.

“Traditionally when a cancer has spread to other organs other than the original site of the disease patients were considered incurable.

“However there is a theory called the oligometastatic theory – that if a patient only has a few spots of cancer returning, those spots could be killed with radiation or with surgery to improve their survival.

"But this has never been shown in a randomised trial before now.”

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

They note that the SABR group contained a higher proportion of patients with prostate cancer - 21 per cent compared to 6%. This could skew results since prostate cancers are generally more slow-growing.

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There were also three treatment-related deaths in the SABR group compared to none in the control, suggesting further work is needed to determine optimal dose for differing lesion size, location and composition.

The study was developed by Dr David Palma, a clinician-scientist at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and the Beatson was the only UK site to take part.

Dr Harrow added: “It has been a great opportunity for Scottish patients to take part in this ground breaking clinical trial and now we’ve been able to show that if, indeed, a patient’s cancer has spread to only a few spots, those tumours can be targeted with high-dose radiation which has been shown to increase survival by a median of 13 months.”