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  • Writer's pictureKirk Hartley

Longer Life Despite Mesothelioma – Radiation and Surgery

Cures for mesothelioma? Not yet. But doctors and researchers continue to make progress in extending lives. For more on the subject, consider a free January 30 webinar on mesothelioma surgery. The program is provided by the Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, and features Dr. Joseph Friedberg, Professor of Surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Presbyterian Medical Center of Philadelphia. Sign up here.

In the meantime, ScienceDaily provides the gist of a new paper reporting on survival when using a course of radiation during a few days before surgery. Key quotes include the following:

“The patients in our study experienced shorter treatment, fewer complications and speedier recovery,” says Dr. Cho. “The three-year survival rate more than doubled to 72% from 32%.” Mesothelioma is an aggressive malignancy that starts in the lining of the lung and progressively restricts and invades the whole organ.

The study assessed a new approach dubbed SMART – Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy – and was completed over four years with 25 patients who had radiation therapy at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre and surgery at Toronto General Hospital, both part of UHN.

Participants were treated with an accelerated, five-day course of intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT), a specialized technique that conforms the radiation dose around the tumours in 3D while sparing the heart, spine and other healthy tissues. The patients underwent surgery to remove the affected lung the following week.

“It was imperative to do the surgery quickly because the lung is particularly sensitive to radiation toxicity,” says thoracic surgeon Dr. Marc de Perrot, also an author of the study. He says the SMART approach significantly reduced the treatment cycle for patients to one month from five months. It also reduced the risk of recurrence because the radiation wiped out the cancer’s ability to seed itself elsewhere in the chest or abdomen during surgery. Dr. de Perrot is an Associate Professor of Surgery at the University of Toronto and also leads the Toronto Mesothelioma Research Program.

“These research results offer real hope to mesothelioma patients who have too often been told in the past that they may have only six months to live,” says Dr. de Perrot. Exposure to asbestos is the main cause of mesothelioma in the 500 new cases reported in Canada each year, a number that has essentially doubled in the past decade, he says."

As these and other therapies take hold, more trials will involve a real life person who is suffering from mesothelioma.

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