Advances in Radiation Therapy for the Treatment of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma

Advances in Radiation Therapy for the Treatment of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma
Advances in Radiation Therapy for the Treatment of Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma
September 6, 2016

Radiation therapy is one of the earliest form of treatment for mesothelioma and other forms of cancer. Ionizing radiations are targeted at the tumor cells in a beam to dissolve the growing tumor cells. The primitive radiation therapy has some disadvantages including the increased risk of cell toxicity. This has necessitated that more research should be done to improve the applicability of radiation therapy.

Mesothelioma is mainly caused by asbestos

Inhaled asbestos particles find their way into the pleura of the lungs and chest cavity. As they continue to accumulate, they result in disruption of normal cellular activity and accumulation of fluid in the pleura spaces.

Read also: Breaking Bad News to Mesothelioma Victims and Families

The survival rate of mesothelioma is low

Malignant mesothelioma is one of the deadliest forms of cancer. The survival rate is very low. Most of the patients diagnosed of malignant mesothelioma does not exceed a few months. A research was conducted using sixteen patients and it was discovered that out of the sixteen, the median overall survival rate was seventeen months. Sixty nine percent of the patients had a survival rate of 1 year and only about twenty eight percent crossed into the second year.

Radiation therapy has not been used for unresectable patients

A number of reasons have been responsible for limiting the successful use of traditional radiation therapy for unresectable patients. This is because of the advanced nature of the disease and the inability to deliver effective doses of radiation therapy safely.

Read also: The Need for Mesothelioma Patients to Plan Realistic New Year Resolution

Radiation therapy presents side effects in some patients

A research was conducted where some patients were given a mean radiation dose of 4680 cGy. The tolerance varied among the various patients. Seven patients that received the treatment suffered from severe pneumonitis. Out of the seven, one died two months after treatment; one was incubated one month after treatment and the remaining five patients suffered from acute grade three pneumonitis.

IMRT is an advanced form of radiation

Intensity-modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) is a modification of the traditional radiation therapy. It is a manipulation of the photon and proton beams of the working radiation to imitate the shape of the tumor. IMRT gives improvement to the potential control of the beams. However, severe toxicity is common too.

Read also: Different Questions You are Expected to Ask Your Mesothelioma Oncologist

The use of radiation therapy for pleural mesothelioma is challenging

With the lungs intact, it is often difficult to use radiation therapy because of the risk of pneumonitis. The conventional radiation therapy for pleural mesothelioma had limited effectiveness. The traditional therapy is also very invasive and leads to wanton cell damage.

Pneumonectomy makes the use of radiation therapy more tolerable

Pneumonectomyis the total or partial removal of a lung. When this has been done, there will be an increase in the local control of radiation. Improved IMRT guidelines and technique might be safer but the potential benefit of IMRT has to be weighed against the risk of fatal pneumonitis. Radiation therapy usually has a specified dose of administration but it is unclear if administering extra 10 Gy would have any beneficial effect on the patient.

Improved intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) has shown some success

IMRT has been used in the entire hemithoracic pleura with patients with two intact lungs. This is also referred to as non-pneumonectomy. There was a level of local control achieved and the absence of pneumonitis in the process which is a glimmer of hope for mesothelioma patients who may not be willing to have part of the lung removed.

Read also: How Mesothelioma Caregivers can Cope with the Stress

Article highlights

  • Radiation therapy is the oldest form of cancer treatment.
  • Presence of asbestos in the pleura results in the accumulation of fluid.
  • Primitive radiation therapy results in cell toxicity.
  • Survival rate of mesothelioma is low.
  • Use of radiation on unresectable patients is limited by inability to administer the right dose.
  • Research has shown different effect of radiation therapy on patients.
  • IMRT takes the shape of the tumor cells.
  • The improved radiation therapy also has a problem of toxicity.
  • Pneumonectomy is when a lung is partially or totally removed.
  • There has been success in radiation therapy on patients with two lungs without the development of pneumonitis.

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