Patients with a rare type of lung
cancer might be more likely to survive if they have radiation
therapy before – rather than after – surgery, according to a small new study.
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Exposed to asbestos
The study included 25 patients with mesothelioma
who underwent five days of radiation therapy and had surgery to remove the
affected lung the following week. Many patients who develop mesothelioma have
been exposed to asbestos, the researchers said.
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"The patients in our study experienced shorter treatment, fewer complications
and speedier recovery," study lead author Dr John Cho, a radiation
oncologist at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto, said in a University
Health Network news release. "The three-year survival rate more than doubled
to 72% from 32%."
The findings about this treatment method – called Surgery for Mesothelioma After
Radiation Therapy (SMART) were published online in the Journal of Thoracic
Dr Marc de Perrot, an associate professor of surgery at the University of
Toronto and head of the Toronto Mesothelioma Research Program, also weighed in
on the study's findings.
Lung particularly sensitive
"It was imperative to do the surgery quickly because the lung is
particularly sensitive to radiation toxicity," said de Perrot, the study's
The SMART approach cut the treatment cycle for patients to one month from
five months, de Perrot said. It also reduced the risk of recurrence because the
radiation wiped out the cancer's ability to seed itself elsewhere in the chest
or abdomen during surgery, he said.
"These research results offer real hope to mesothelioma patients who
have too often been told in the past that they may have only six months to
live," de Perrot said.
Since completing the study, Cho and de Perrot have used the approach to successfully
treat 20 more patients, according to the news release.
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(Picture: Radiation testing from Shutterstock)