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Routine Radiation for Lung Cancer Scrutinized

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Lung cancer patients may not always benefit from radiation after surgery.

Radiation used to treat lung cancer may not extend lives, yet many physicians recommend the treatment to prevent cancer recurrence after surgery. Findings from researchers show older patients with the disease are getting treatments, but it may not help them live longer.

The investigation, led by Juan Wisnivesky, MD, DrPH, of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and his colleagues published in the journal CANCER, looked at outcomes among 1,307 patients with locally advanced lung cancer between 1992 and 2005.

Fifty-four percent of 710 patients received radiation therapy after lung cancer surgery, but were no more likely to survive compared to patients who didn’t receive treatments.

The study looked at patients with patients with completely resected, stage III nonsmall cell lung cancer with N2 disease, meaning cancer has spread to the lymph nodes.

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“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 in a press release.

The study doesn’t suggest that lung cancer patients shouldn’t receive radiation therapy. Rather, the finding showed patients whose cancer is not advanced, but has spread outside of the lungs, didn’t survive longer than patients whose physicians didn’t recommend radiation.

The study, "Postoperative radiotherapy for elderly patients with stage III lung cancer”, published in the journal CANCER, February 8, 2012, is a preliminary findings. The researchers say they may get more answers about the whether or not radiation helps a subset of lung cancer patients live longer when results of an ongoing phase III randomized controlled clinical trial, the Adjuvant Radiotherapy Trial (LungArt), are completed.

For now, routine radiation treatment for stage III lung cancer is not routinely recommended for older cancer patients whose disease is not widespread.

CANCER: DOI: 10.1002/cncr.26585
February 13, 2012

Image credit: Wikimedia commons