April 9, 2009

Lung cancer treatments tested

High-dose radiation and chemotherapy in combination can improve lung cancer survival rates, U.S. researchers said.

The study, published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics, also finds survival increased by increasing the dose of radiation over the course of treatment.

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, study senior author Dr. Feng-Ming Kong of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor said in a statement.

Looking at 237 patients treated for stage III non-small cell lung cancer, the researchers say patients treated with radiation alone had the lowest survival rates -- 7.4 months after diagnosis. Adding chemotherapy increased survival to 14.9 months when 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.

The researchers admit giving concurrent treatments is challenging. They are especially concerned about the potential toxicity associated with the high dose radiation, and are investigating the use of advanced imaging to better target high dose radiation.