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Chemo-Radiotherapy Increases Survival Rates Among Lung Cancer Patients

Alison Rodriguez
Advanced radiotherapy treatment, combined with chemotherapy, in small cell lung cancer leads to higher survival rates and lower toxicity, according to a new study.
Advanced radiotherapy treatment, combined with chemotherapy, in small cell lung cancer (SCLC) leads to higher survival rates and lower toxicity, according to a new study.

The University of Manchester and Christie NHS Foundation performed a 10-year study that treated patients with SCLC—in sites across Europe, Canada, Spain, and France—once or twice daily with radiotherapy regimes and chemotherapy. With the radiotherapy treatment, 5-year survival rates tripled. 

In the 1980s, studies of chemotherapy alone demonstrated a 10% survival rate, while this study maintained a survival rate of 35%. The 5-year survival rate among the twice daily group reached 34% and 31% for the once-daily group.  

“Despite excellent response to both chemotherapy and radiotherapy in most patients, the cancer will usually recur both locally but also distantly,” says Corinne Faivre-Finn, the study leader and a professor of lung cancer radiotherapy at The University of Manchester. “However, the twice-daily and once-daily regimes we tested showed the best survival and toxicity rates compared to previously reported studies.”

Professor Faivre-Finn also attributes the success of the radiotherapy treatments to the new and modern techniques. The study, known as CONVERT, used a 3-dimensional radiotherapy and an intensity modulated radio therapy, which allowed the radiation beams to specifically reflect the outline of the tumor.

Patients treated with the radiotherapy regimes demonstrated the ability to cope better with common side effects compared with previous studies—20% of patients with severe inflammation of oesophagus were hospitalized while 34% in the US Intergroup study. The most common side effects of this combined chemo-radiotherapy treatment were neutropenia, anaemia, nausea, anorexia, and fatigue.

“Radiotherapy is a hugely important part of treatment for limited stage small cell lung cancer as it helps to control the local disease in combination with chemotherapy,” Faivre-Finn said. “We hope this study will establish a standard treatment in limited stage small-cell lung cancer. Currently in the UK less than 20 percent of centres give twice daily radiotherapy routinely.”

 
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