Study shows fewer higher-dose radiation treatments safe and well tolerated by women with uterine cancer


Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and Lawson Health Research Institute
April 14, 2022


LONDON,ON - Five high-dose radiation treatments targeting uterine cancer rather than the current standard 25 treatments are safe and well-tolerated by patients, a new study published in JAMA Oncology has found.

SPARTACUS (Stereotactic Pelvic Adjuvant Radiation Therapy in Cancers of the Uterus) — a multi-institutional non-randomized controlled trial — looked to assess the feasibility and safety of using a specialized technique called stereotactic body radiation therapy (SBRT) for women with uterine cancer where instead of 25 treatments over five weeks, five treatments can be delivered over 1.5 weeks.

SBRT uses many precise beams of radiation to target tumours or cancerous cells. It uses a higher dose of radiation in a smaller number of treatments. It can be done on a standard linear accelerator, the machine that delivers radiation treatments.

Sixty-one women were enrolled in SPARTACUS at two centres — Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the London Regional Cancer Program (LRCP) at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC).

“Uterine cancer is a common cancer in women, usually treated with surgical removal followed by radiation and/or chemotherapy to reduce the risk of recurrence,” said Dr. Eric Leung, radiation oncologist at Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre. “External beam radiation is usually given over five weeks, and that can place a heavy burden on women who have to travel to a radiation centre every day, spend time away from home and work, and incur the financial burden of these factors as well.”

With a median follow-up of nine months, the patients enrolled in SPARTACUS reported an acceptable level of side effects from the radiation that resolved, and also reported a reasonable quality of life during treatment, Dr. Leung said.

“We were interested in examining the toxicity of the higher dose – would it affect the nearby bowels or bladder and place a heavy symptom burden on patients? We were pleased to find that patients reported their symptoms as manageable.”

“This study represents a novel way of treating uterine cancer in a shorter time. It was conducted mainly through the COVID pandemic and gave women a chance to receive treatment in less time with fewer visits to our centres,” said Dr. David D’Souza, radiation oncologist at LHSC and the study co-lead through Lawson Health Research Institute.

Patients will continue to be followed on the study for late side effects and further research is planned to further compare this more convenient schedule to the standard five-week course of radiation. 

“This novel treatment could lead to a practice change that places less burden on patients and on the healthcare system,” Dr. Leung said. “Delivering radiation over the course of a week and half rather than over five weeks for patients facing uterine cancer would open up healthcare resources by reducing visits and usage of the linear accelerators.”



ADDIONAL QUOTES – Dr. David D’Souza:

“Giving radiation in a shorter time can have several advantages for both the patient and the health care system."

“Our study assessed the safety of delivering a higher dose of radiation in fewer treatments for patients with uterine cancer by adapting what has successfully been done for other types of cancer in the pelvis like prostate and rectal cancer.”

“This study was made possible with advances in treatment planning, radiation machine capabilities, and an outstanding radiation therapy program at LRCP.”

Lawson Health Research Institute is one of Canada’s top hospital-based research institutes, tackling the most pressing challenges in health care. As the research institute of London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care London, our innovation happens where care is delivered. Lawson research teams are at the leading-edge of science with the goal of improving health and the delivery of care for patients. Working in partnership with Western University, our researchers are encouraged to pursue their curiosity, collaborate often and share their discoveries widely. Research conducted through Lawson makes a difference in the lives of patients, families and communities around the world. To learn more, visit

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is inventing the future of health care for the 1.2 million patients the hospital cares for each year through the dedication of its more than 10,000 staff and volunteers. An internationally recognized leader in research and education and a full affiliation with the University of Toronto distinguishes Sunnybrook as one of Canada’s premier academic health sciences centres. Sunnybrook specializes in caring for high-risk pregnancies, critically-ill newborns and adults, offering specialized rehabilitation and treating and preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological and psychiatric disorders, orthopaedic and arthritic conditions and traumatic injuries. The Hospital also has a unique and national leading program for the care of Canada’s war veterans. 

Media Contacts:
Celine Zadorsky
Communications & External Relations
Lawson Health Research Institute
T: 519-685-8500 ext. 75664
C: 519-619-3872


Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Communications & Stakeholder Relations


Media Contacts
Celine Zadorsky

Communications Consultant & External Relations
Lawson Health Research Institute
T: 519-685-8500 ext. 75664
C. 519-619-3872