Radiation & Chemotherapy Together Boost Lung Cancer Survival

Older African American man smilingCombining radiation therapy with chemotherapy has substantially extended survival for many people with lung cancer, two new studies report.

About 32 percent of non-small cell lung cancer patients who received chemoradiation therapy were still alive five years following treatment, a survival rate double that of previous estimates, according to results from a long-term clinical trial.

Further, a small second clinical trial of people with lung cancer that had already spread to other parts of the body showed that radiation therapy added to chemo dramatically slowed the time until these cancers progressed further.

The two studies show that radiation therapy and chemotherapy work well together, and that radiation also might help patients who are undergoing newer forms of cancer treatment like targeted therapy and immunotherapy, said Dr. Benjamin Movsas, a radiation oncologist with the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

“Instead of becoming less important, radiation therapy is becoming more important,” Movsas said.

Both studies were presented Sunday at the American Society of Radiation Oncology’s annual meeting, in San Diego. Findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’ve been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Chemotherapy’s advantage is that it can attack cancer anywhere in the body, even cancer cells doctors haven’t found, Movsas said.

“It goes around the entire body through the bloodstream,” he said. “If there are residual cancer cells that may have spread from the initial site, this is a way to address those.”