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Lung cancer

Updated 29 May 2015

Radiation therapy that may not prolong life

A new study has found that many older lung cancer patients get treatments that may not help them live longer.

A new study has found that many older lung cancer patients get treatments that may not help them live longer.

Published early online in CANCER, a peer-reviewed Journal of the American Cancer Society, the findings suggest that physicians should not routinely use radiation after surgery to treat lung cancer that is advanced but has not widely spread, at least in older patients.

Patients with locally advanced lung cancer, which has spread to only certain lymph nodes, usually undergo surgery to remove their tumours. Unfortunately, the cancer often comes back, so physicians frequently use radiation therapy to decrease patients' risk of cancer recurrence.

To see if this additional treatment actually extends their survival, Juan Wisnivesky, MD, Dr PH, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and his colleagues analysed information from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results (SEER)-Medicare registry, which links cancer incidence and survival data to a master file of Medicare records. The investigators identified 1 307 cases of locally advanced lung cancer between 1992 and 2005.

In all, 710 patients (54%) received radiation following their surgery, but they were not more likely to survive longer than patients who did not receive radiation. "Our results show that we need more information about the potential benefits of radiation therapy before it is used routinely to treat this subset of lung cancer patients," said Dr Wisnivesky.

Such information may come from the Lung Adjuvant Radiotherapy Trial (LungArt), which is an ongoing phase III randomised controlled clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness of radiation following surgery in patients with locally advanced lung cancer.


(EurekAlert, February 2012) 

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CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit cansa.org.za.

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