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Researchers Find Combination of Chemotherapy and Radiation Treatment May Be Optimal for Older Mesothelioma Patients

According to researchers at the University of Hawaii Cancer Center, more than 20 million people in the United States are at risk of developing malignant mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that develops in the lining of the lung and abdominal cavity. Patients who develop mesothelioma typically inhaled asbestos earlier in their lives, often 20 years to 40 years before the symptoms of mesothelioma appear.  As a result, about three out of four people with mesothelioma are older than 65 years, and in one study, the median age of veterans with mesothelioma was 71.

Mesothelioma is notoriously difficult to treat and often progresses despite following a standard treatment regimen of surgery and chemotherapy.  Treatment of cancer is even more challenging in the older population.  According to a new study, nearly half of older cancer patients have unrecognized medical problems that may also need to be addressed.

However, a new study by researchers in Japan found that advanced non–small cell lung cancer patients aged 71 years and older “showed significantly greater survival with carboplatin chemotherapy plus concurrent radiation than with radiotherapy alone.”

Radiation is often the last treatment used in the care of cancer patients and is typically used for palliative care.  Palliative care treatment, for end-stage cancer patients, is intended to control pain, stop bleeding, and relieve pressure, even though the cancer can no longer be controlled.

Chemotherapy with platinum-based drugs, such as cisplatin or carboplatin, is frequently used to treat both lung cancer and mesothelioma.

The patients in the study were at least 71 years of age and had no previous chemotherapy or radiotherapy.  The results showed a significantly longer median overall survival of 22.4 months for those patients who received chemoradiotherapy, compared with 16.9 months for those having radiation therapy alone.

Median progression-free survival was also significantly longer, at 8.9 months, for those receiving chemoradiotherapy, compared with 6.8 months for those receiving only radiation.

“The study suggests that age is not the only determinant of management of the [older] patient.” said Dr. Kazmierska of the radiotherapy department at the Greater Poland Cancer Centre in Poznan, Poland.

While the average survival time of mesothelioma patients typically varies from 4 – 18 months after diagnosis, many factors determine the life expectancy. Factors include type and stage of mesothelioma, treatment plan, whether the patient has ever smoked, the lifestyle, diet and fitness level of the patient, as well as age, sex and family traits.


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Nancy Meredith is a blog and web content writer with more than 20 years of professional experience in the Information Technology industry. She has been writing about Mesothelioma for 4 years. Follow Nancy on Google+

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