Review Article

Stereotactic body radiation therapy for lung, spine and oligometastatic disease: current evidence and future directions

Emma Maria Dunne, Ian Mark Fraser, Mitchell Liu


Stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) also referred to as stereotactic ablative radiotherapy (SABR), is a technique which has emerged over the past two decades due to improvements in radiation technology. Unlike conventional external beam radiotherapy (cEBRT) which traditionally delivers radiation in small doses [approximately 2 Gray (Gy) per fraction] over several weeks, SBRT, typically delivered in one to eight fractions, is a technique whereby potentially ablative doses of radiotherapy (usually 7.5–20 Gy per fraction) can be delivered with steeper dose gradients and sub millimetre precision, minimising risk to surrounding normal tissues. The potential benefits of excellent tumor control with low toxicity has led to the increasing use of SBRT in a number of clinical situations. Due to compelling evidence, SBRT is now the treatment of choice for medically inoperable patients with peripherally located stage I non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Controversy remains however as to its efficacy and safety for central or ultra-central lung tumors. The evidence base supporting the use of SBRT as a novel treatment for spinal metastases and oligometastases is rapidly expanding but challenges remain in these difficult patient populations. In an era where targeted therapy and improved systemic treatments for stage IV cancer have resulted in increased disease-free survival, and our knowledge of the oligometastatic state is ever expanding, using SBRT to treat metastatic disease and gain durable local control is increasingly desirable. Several randomized trials are currently underway and are sure to provide valuable information on the benefit and utility of SBRT across many tumor sites including early-stage NSCLC, spinal metastases and oligometastatic disease. Recognizing the evolving role of SBRT in clinical practice, this paper provides a critical review of recent developments in each of these areas particularly highlighting the challenges facing clinicians and discusses potential areas for future research.

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