Surgery for pleural mesothelioma is a standard treatment as it’s the best way to remove the majority of tumors from the body. However, relapse after surgery is common. A recent study has found adjuvant radiation for pleural mesothelioma (radiation given after surgery) results in higher survival rates.

Radiation as Part of Multimodal Therapy

When a patient is diagnosed with mesothelioma, their doctor develops a unique treatment plan depending on the patient’s disease stage, cell type and location. Treatment plans usually include a combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and other treatments—an approach called multimodal therapy.

Adjuvant radiation means to use radiation after a doctor surgically removes mesothelioma from a patient. Adjuvant radiation is included within some multimodal treatment plans for pleural mesothelioma. However, researchers wanted to see if this treatment strategy was linked to increased survival rates in patients.

About Adjuvant Radiation for Pleural Mesothelioma

Adjuvant is a medical term for a type of therapy that is applied after initial cancer treatment. The goal of adjuvant therapies is to reduce the chances of secondary tumor formation, also known as relapse. It’s used specifically to kill any small areas of cancer that the surgeon couldn’t remove.

Radiation therapy uses small particles to kill mesothelioma cells. Doctors don’t often prescribe radiation on its own as mesothelioma tumors don’t usually grow in distinct clumps but rather in sheets. This growth pattern makes it hard to aim radiation directly at the tumors without damaging surrounding healthy tissues.

Adjuvant radiation is different from stand-alone radiation because it’s only used after surgery for pleural mesothelioma. It’s usually included in multimodal treatment plans for patients who are diagnosed with stage 1, 2 or 3 of pleural mesothelioma. Adjuvant radiation is also often prescribed to patients with high risk of relapse to ensure the best possible survival rate and relapse prevention.

Increased Survival from Adjuvant Radiation

The latest research study collected information on cases of pleural mesothelioma from 2004 to 2013 to evaluate if overall survival was higher in patients who underwent adjuvant radiation following surgery.

The researchers split the pleural mesothelioma cases they found into 3 groups:

  1. Observation
  2.   Surgery alone
  3. Surgery with adjuvant radiation

Overall the results showed that pleural mesothelioma patients treated with surgery followed by adjuvant radiation had the highest average survival rate of 21.4 months.

Patients treated with surgery alone had an average survival rate of 16.59 months. Undergoing chemotherapy following surgery was also found to improve survival rates.

Researchers also found that adjuvant radiation was more likely to be delivered after complete lung removal (extrapleural pneumonectomy) than lung-sparing surgery (pleurectomy with decortication).

Learn more about extrapleural pneumonectomy vs. pleurectomy with decortication.

Multimodal Therapy for Improved Survival

Mesothelioma specialists have the experience and expertise required to develop tailored multimodal treatment plans for patients with pleural mesothelioma. Because of how rare and aggressive mesothelioma is, it’s essential to have a treatment strategy meant for your specific cell type, location and disease stage.

Multimodal treatment plans can include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, targeted therapy and gene therapy. Each treatment within a multimodal plan serves a specific purpose, with the therapy combination giving patients the best possible survival rate.

Talk to a Patient Advocate at Mesothelioma Help Now

As this recent study shows, adjuvant radiation is linked to increased survival rates in patients with pleural mesothelioma. Mesothelioma specialists have the expertise to assess if adjuvant radiation is the appropriate treatment method for you.

If you are interested in learning more about adjuvant radiation for pleural mesothelioma, speak with a Patient Advocate at Mesothelioma Help Now. Our Patient Advocates will be able to match you with a mesothelioma specialist who can discuss the best treatment plan for your diagnosis.

View Author and Sources

  1. Annals of Surgical Oncology, “The Role of Adjuvant Radiotherapy in the Treatment of Pleural Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: Accessed on March 20, 2019.
  2. American Cancer Society, “Radiation Therapy for Malignant Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: Accessed on March 20, 2019.
  3. Comprehensive Cancer Center, “Radiation Therapy for Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: Accessed on March 20, 2019.

Last modified: March 28, 2019