Timing of Therapies Boosts Cancer Survival Rates

Stage III lung cancer survival improved with concurrent radiation and chemotherapy

(RxWiki News) Surgeons aren't usually part of the treatment team for Stage III lung cancer, a diagnosis 50,000 Americans receive each year. New methods for using current treatments may improve the outlook for patients.

Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) researchers report that performing chemotherapy and radiation at the same time improves five-year survival rates for Stage III cancer patients. While rigorous and difficult, this treatment course offers better outcomes than the usual course of treating patients with radiation following chemotherapy.

"Chemotherapy and radiation given at the same time improves lung cancer survival."

A phase III trial was conducted with 610 patients. Participants were separated into three groups and received cisplatin-based chemotherapy in addition to radiation therapy either 1) sequentially; 2) once a day concurrently; 3) twice a day concurrently.

Five year survival rates improved substantially. Of those who received sequential treatments, 10 percent were alive after five years vs. 16 percent who received chemotherapy once a day at the same time they were undergoing radiation and 13 percent who had two chemotherapy sessions a day concurrent with the radiation.

These results confirm the findings of a Japanese study involving 314 patients and several smaller European trials, according to principal investigator, Walter J. Curran, Jr., M.D., RTOG Group Chair, executive director of the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University in Atlanta.

Side effects of the concurrent treatment were significant and included severe inflammation of the esophagus lining. However, in follow-up, late effects were roughly similar among all groups.

A report of this study was published an article online September 8, 2011 in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Review Date: 
September 14, 2011