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BC Cancer researchers demonstrate the promise of a novel radiation treatment for metastatic cancer patients

VANCOUVER, B.C. – A new study co-led by BC Cancer researchers has found that the use of Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy (SABR) technology may improve survival rates for patients with limited metastatic cancer.
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​These findings are the result of the world’s first randomized clinical trial of SABR as it relates to cancer that has already spread to other parts of the body.

The study, led at BC Cancer by Dr. Robert Olson, along with an international team of researchers was recently published in The Lancet. SABR technology is a highly precise form of radiotherapy where much higher doses of radiation can be safely delivered to tumours over a shorter time period. The technology features advanced machines with built in CT scans that can sculpt the dose of radiation to tumours from multiple angles while reducing the dose to healthy normal nearby tissue. This both increases cure rates, while reducing the risk of side effects.  

“What excites me most about this study is the potential survival benefit from Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy. These results confirm the need for a larger Phase III trial,” says Dr. Robert Olson, radiation oncologist, BC Cancer – Prince George. 

It has recently been hypothesized that patients with a small number of additional tumours could be cured of the disease once all growths are killed with radiation, but there was not a lot of evidence to support the claim until now. The SABR-COMET trial aimed to assess the effect of SABR on survival, outcomes, toxicity and quality of life in patients with a controlled primary tumour, and one to five additional tumours.

During the randomized trial, which took place over four years at ten centres worldwide (including all six BC Cancer centres), the patient group who was treated with SABR technology saw an overall improvement in survival. However, there is a possibility of serious side effects, so future research is needed to confirm its efficacy.

Phase III trials are needed to conclusively show an overall survival benefit and to determine the number of metastatic tumours that could benefit from SABR treatment. “A Phase III trial could be paradigm-changing. It could support using ablative therapies in the setting of metastatic disease, to increase survival rates in some patients,” says Dr. Olson. 

The study was funded by the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research and London Regional Cancer Program Catalyst Grant, with the BC Cancer Foundation launching a fundraising campaign to support the research led by Dr. Olson in Prince George at the end of 2018.

“With these promising results community support is critical in launching a Phase III clinical trial – one that brings tremendous hope for patients facing metastatic cancers,” says Sarah Roth, president and CEO, BC Cancer Foundation. 

The results of this study will open the door for patients in the upcoming trial titled SABR-COMET-3, a Phase III randomized controlled trials for patients across the province with 1-3 metastatic tumours being led by Dr. Robert Olson from BC Cancer - Prince George.

Quick Facts:
  • One in two Canadians are expected to face cancer in their lifetimes
  • More than 27,000 British Columbians will be diagnosed with cancer
  • Over 120,000 people in BC are living with a cancer diagnosis
  • BC Cancer has among the best outcomes in the world

Learn More:
To learn more about Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy, visit: 

BC Cancer, a program of the Provincial Health Services Authority, is committed to reducing the incidence of cancer, reducing the mortality from cancer and improving the quality of life of those living with cancer. It provides a comprehensive cancer control program for the people of British Columbia by working with community partners to deliver a range of oncology services, including prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, research, education, supportive care, rehabilitation and palliative care. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @BCCancer.

The BC Cancer Foundation is the fundraising partner of BC Cancer. Together with our donors we are changing the outcome for people affected by cancer in B.C. and beyond by connecting personalized care, innovative research and opportunities to contribute. We are the largest funder of cancer in B.C. and every dollar raised stays right here at BC Cancer to advance research, enhance care and break down cancer to benefit the people of B.C.

The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) plans, manages and evaluates selected specialty and province-wide health care services across BC, working with the five geographic health authorities to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit or follow us on Twitter @PHSAofBC.


Media Contact:
Andrea Visscher
Communications Officer, BC Cancer
Provincial Health Services Authority
Tel: 604-842-1177
PHSA Media line: 778-867-7472

Hayley Judge
Communications Specialist
BC Cancer
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