The emergence and success of stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) for the treatment of lung cancer have led to its rapid adoption for liver cancers. SBRT can achieve excellent results for small liver tumors. However, the vast majority of physicians interpret SBRT as meaning doses of radiation (range, 4–20 Gray [Gy]) that may not be ablative but are delivered within about 1 week (ie, in 3–6 fractions). Adherence to this approach has limited the effectiveness of SBRT for large liver tumors (>7 cm) because of the need to reduce doses to meet organ constraints. The prognosis for patients who present with large liver tumors is poor, with a median survival ≤12 months, and most of these patients die from tumor-related liver failure. Herein, the authors present a comprehensive solution to achieve ablative SBRT doses for patients with large liver tumors by using a combination of classic, modern, and novel concepts of radiotherapy: fractionation, dose painting, motion management, image guidance, and simultaneous integrated protection. The authors discuss these concepts in the context of large, inoperable liver tumors and review how this approach can substantially prolong survival for patients, most of whom otherwise have a very poor prognosis and few effective treatment options. Cancer2016;122:1974–86. © 2016 American Cancer Society.
Ablation of large liver tumors can be routinely achieved with radiation if high enough doses are used (biologic equivalent dose of 100 Gray). For tumors near bowel, this requires a solution for organ motion, high-quality soft tissue image guidance, and a stereotactic body radiation therapy technique with 15 to 25 rather than 5 fractions.