Radiation has been used to address cancer symptoms since shortly after the its discovery in the late 1800’s, and it remains an effective, time-efficient, and well-tolerated means by which to palliate localized cancer symptoms. The appropriate use of palliative radiotherapy fulfills the World Health Organization requirement that palliative care should follow an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.

Radiotherapy is offered with purely palliative intent for a number of clinical situations such as painful bone metastases or neurologic dysfunction due to brain metastases or extradural spinal cord compression. Additionally, radiotherapy concurrently provides palliative relief of local symptoms caused by a whole host of tumors treated with curative intent, such as those primary to the head and neck, esophagus, lung, stomach, rectum, bladder, prostate, uterus, cervix, and soft tissues. The aging of the populations in developed countries, coupled with decreasing deaths due to causes such as infection in developing countries, have combined to require an additional focus on resource dedication and interdisciplinary collaboration for palliative oncology.

The importance of palliative radiotherapy to end-of-life oncology care has led to International Consensus Conferences on Palliative Radiotherapy in New York in 1990, London in 2000, San Diego in 2010, and Barcelona in 2015. Successes from those meetings and increased, ongoing collaboration between like-minded colleagues worldwide led to thoughts of an organization dedicated specifically the subspecialty of palliative radiotherapy. So, in the Fall of 2014, the Society for Palliative Radiation Oncology (SPRO) was formed to approach the needs of this patient group on three levels:

  1. Research
  2. Education
  3. Advocacy

We thank you for your interest in SPRO, and we invite your brainstorms and suggestions moving forward!