A new study shows that aggressive radiation for pleural mesothelioma may be a crucial treatment option that improves patients’ life expectancy. The results from the research showed that pleural mesothelioma patients who undergo high doses of chest radiation have extended survival.

About Radiation for Pleural Mesothelioma

Currently, treatment options for pleural mesothelioma are limited and patients typically live only a year or two following their initial diagnosis. Mesothelioma doctors prescribe a standard multimodal treatment plan—a combination of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and other new therapies.

Because pleural mesothelioma tumors grown in sheets within or on the lung linings, it’s difficult for doctors to target tumors with radiation. For this reason, radiation isn’t usually prescribed as a solo mesothelioma treatment. Radiation is also not prescribed as often as chemotherapy, and it’s more commonly used as mesothelioma palliative care to relieve pain or reduce symptoms.

Surprising results from a recent Italian study suggest that radiation has evolved dramatically in the past decade. Medical professionals may need to reconsider radiation as an effective treatment for pleural mesothelioma.

Study Shows Radical Radiation Improves Survival

Dr. Marco Trovo MD and others from the University Hospital of Udine, Italy, presented their research findings at the European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO) earlier this year. The study looked at the effectiveness of radiation in mesothelioma patients whose cancers could not be completely removed with surgery.

The research study included 108 patients with partially resected pleural mesothelioma who were treated at the National Cancer Institute of Aviano, Italy, between the years of 2014 and 2018. All patients in the study were previously treated with surgery and chemotherapy in an attempt to remove tumors in the lung linings.

Half of the participants were randomly assigned to receive radical radiation to one side of their chest (hemi-thoracic radiation). They received 25 treatments, delivering a total dose of 50 Gy (grays—how radiation doses are measured) to their chest, along with an additional dose of 60 Gy to the exact tumor location. The other study group was given standard palliative radiation, which included up to 10 treatments and a total dose of only 20-30 Gy to the tumor location.

Results from the radical radiation treatment group were very promising. Around 58% of patients who received the hemi-thoracic radiation were still living 2 years later. Within the palliative treatment group, only 28% of patients were still alive 2 years later.

The Future of Radiation for Pleural Mesothelioma

Results from the Italian study demonstrate that radiation therapy is advancing and should be a key consideration in effective mesothelioma treatment. Higher waves of radiation can now be administered to precise tumor locations, increasing the effectiveness of the treatment and reducing the damage to nearby healthy tissue.

Dr. Trovo, from the study, believes that radical radiation for pleural mesothelioma should be considered the new standard for patients whose tumors can only be partially removed by surgery. Adjuvant (after surgery) radiation can remove remaining mesothelioma cells and prevent the chance of seeding—when cells move to other locations in the body and start new tumors.

Studies are showing the benefits of using radiation before surgery (neoadjuvant) with the SMART approach—Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy. Radiation technology has also advanced, giving doctors more precision in targeting tumors. More research will help doctors better understand how radiation can improve survival when combined with other treatments.

It’s important for mesothelioma patients to work with mesothelioma specialists to ensure they undergo the latest treatment technology.

Speak with a Mesothelioma Help Now Patient Advocate today. We can connect you with a top mesothelioma doctor near you so you can get the best treatment plan possible for your diagnosis.

View Author and Sources

  1. EurekAlert!, “Radiotherapy doubles survival for patients with mesothelioma.” Accessed from: https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2019-04/esfr-rds042619.php. Retrieved on May 5th, 2019.
  2. Canadian Cancer Society, “Radiation Therapy for Mesothelioma.” Accessed from: http://www.cancer.ca/en/cancer-information/cancer-type/mesothelioma/treatment/radiation-therapy/?region=bc. Retrieved on May 5th, 2019.

Last modified: May 21, 2019