Research into radioablation in severe cardiac arrhythmias has started

For some of the patients with serious cardiac arrhythmias (ventricular tachycardia, VT), current treatments, such as medication or ablation, do not offer a solution. Researchers from CARIM and Maastro, in collaboration with 30 partner organizations in 8 European countries, will therefore conduct research into a new treatment method: non-invasive radioablation.

In ventricular tachycardia, or VT, the patient experiences an abnormally fast heart rhythm that originates in one of the heart's chambers. It usually occurs in individuals with pre-existing heart disease, but can also be hereditary and seen in individuals with a congenital heart defect. VT may last for a few heartbeats or may be present for a longer period of time, which is life-threatening to the patient.

Ablation doesn't work
Patients with VT, in whom medicines do not work sufficiently, are normally considered first for so-called catheter ablation. With a special catheter, the doctors heat the piece of heart tissue that causes cardiac arrhythmias. As a result, the arrhythmia is, as it were, switched off. In some patients, however, catheter ablation does not help, for example because the catheter cannot reach the piece of heart tissue.

STAR treatment
Since 2021, the research consortium has been researching the treatment of VT by means of non-invasive radiotherapy (STereotactic Arrhythmia Radioablation or STAR). Similar radiotherapy has been used for more than 10 years to treat lung cancer. In the coming years, the researchers will investigate whether this irradiation for VT is safe and feasible. Cardiologists at Maastricht UMC+ are conducting careful research into the exact place where the arrhythmias originate. Maastro clinicians and researchers are responsible, among other things, for the correct application of radiotherapy and for looking at the influence of movement on the dose distribution, for example through breathing and heart rate.

Last month, the first EU-wide STAR treatment registry was opened. This means that the researchers can apply the STAR treatment to carefully selected patients, with the aim of having data from more than 300 patients included in the STAR treatment registry by 2025. In this way, a good picture can be formed of the effects and side effects of the treatment. In the following two years, the patients are closely monitored.

The research takes place within the European STOPSTORM consortium (Horizon 2020 project). The following from CARIM are involved: Rachel ter Bekke, Paul Volders, Kevin Vernooy, Matthijs Cluitmans, Job Stoks, Joachim Wildberger.

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This project has been funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No. 945119.