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Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy Remains a Solid Treatment Option

Intensely Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) remains the most effective post-surgical treatment for mesothelioma patients according to a study published in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.  

Mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by exposure to unsafe levels of asbestos, strikes 3,000 new patients in the U.S. ever year.  The disease is insidious, invariably deadly, and extremely hard to treat.  The most common course of treatment for patients afflicted with the disease is surgery followed by some sort of chemotherapy usually coinciding with radiation treatment as well.  The purpose of the study was to find out which types of radiation therapy was the most effective and had the best results for the patient. 

While none of these treatments can cure the disease, successful therapy can prolong a patient’s life and increase the quality of that life for a time being.  For many patients, that makes all the difference.

A research team from the Tucson-based University of Arizona, authored the study.  It examined mesothelioma cases from around the world, evaluating each on several factors including the type of therapy and the results, both long and short term, from that treatment. 

The study noted that conventional radiotherapy is difficult to use when treating mesothelioma because the tumors caused by this asbestos disease are very often irregular in shape and size.  They also often frequently occur near vital organs such as the liver, lungs, and heart, making treatment that much more difficult and requiring extreme accuracy when delivering radiation. 

IMRT is unique in that the intensity of the radiation can be modulated in order to more closely match the shape of mesothelioma tumors.  This alone allows for the best results and patients who undergo IMRT achieve the best local control of tumor growth.

However, the study found that IMRT is far from perfect.  IMRT can cause severe damage to healthy tissue and organs and must be administered with the utmost care.  It also dramatically increases the risk of adverse reactions in patients who are undergoing simultaneous chemotherapy.

These effects can be somewhat mitigated by stringent examinations after treatment.  In fact, the study recommends that all IMRT patients receive regular PET scans to monitor the progress of their treatment.  PET scans have been found to be the most accurate scan available when dealing with mesothelioma tumors when compared to x-ray or CT scans.

Many new treatments for mesothelioma have been developed in recent years, most of which are still in the experimental stages, but IMRT continues to be used in the majority of cases around the world.