Standard treatment for this stage of lung cancer – when the tumour is likely too large to be removed through surgery – involves a combination of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. But, this new study finds, giving chemotherapy at the same time as the radiation enhances the effect of both. Further, increasing the dose of radiation over the course of treatment also increased survival.
“When patients are diagnosed with stage III lung cancer, surgery is often not an option, and survival rates are typically quite low. Finding new ways to improve survival, even in small increments, is crucial,” says senior study author Feng-Ming Kong.
The researchers compared survival among patients treated with radiation alone, with radiation followed by chemotherapy, and with radiation and chemotherapy given at the same time. Thirty-one of the patients were also enrolled in a study in which the radiation dose was increased throughout the course of the treatment.
Patients treated with radiation alone had the worst overall survival rates, living only an average 7.4 months after diagnosis. Adding chemotherapy increased survival to 14.9 months when it was administered after completing radiation and 15.8 months when administered at the same time as radiation. After five years, 19.4 percent of the patients receiving concurrent chemotherapy were still alive, compared to only 7.5 percent of patients receiving sequential chemotherapy.
“Our study shows chemotherapy helps, and high dose radiation helps. But it is challenging to administer these treatments at the same time because of the potential toxicity associated with the high dose radiation,” Kong says.
The researchers are currently looking at using PET imaging during the course of lung cancer treatment to personalise high dose radiation therapy in many individual patients. As the tumour becomes smaller during treatment, increasing the radiation dose will become more tolerable because it is targeting a smaller area. The researchers believe this strategy could lead to improved treatment outcomes in many patients. Kong currently leads a clinical trial that is following patients through their treatment to look at the impact on survival of increasing radiation dose.
MEDICA.de; Source: University of Michigan Health System