Adding Radiation to Chemotherapy May Dramatically Improve Survival for Advanced-Stage NSCLC Patients

According to a new clinical trial reported at the 59th Annual Meeting of the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), combining radiation therapy with chemotherapy for patients with limited stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) may curb disease progression dramatically when compared to lung cancer patients who only receive chemotherapy.

Lung cancer claims the most cancer-specific deaths of any tumor type.  Few existing treatments offer long-lasting survival benefits for patients whose lung cancer has spread past the lungs.  Lung cancer can be aggressive and may spread even after treatment.  Research on metastatic colorectal cancer and sarcoma, however, suggests a potential benefit from adding surgery or radiation therapy.  Radiation is directed specifically at the tumor cells.  Surgery requires an operation to remove the cells.  In these studies, adding radiation or/and surgery improved the ability of systemic therapies, such as chemotherapy, to control the cancer and improve survival in patients with few metastases.

Patients in the study received either chemotherapy alone or a combination of stereotactic body radiation therapy or SBRT, to all sites of disease followed by chemotherapy.  Radiation to metastases was offered as one to five treatments and radiation to the primary disease site was given in 15 treatments using standard form of radiation.  Maintenance chemotherapy was left to the discretion of the treating medical oncologists.

Results of the trial showed progression-free survival in the trial increased from 3.5 months to 9.7 months with the addition of radiation therapy delivered to all the metastatic sites of lung cancer as well as the primary disease site.  Treatment-related side effects were similar for the two treatment approaches.

At St. Louis CyberKnife, lung cancer patients are treated with SBRT using the CyberKnife® Robotic Radiosurgery System.  CyberKnife is a painless, nonsurgical outpatient cancer treatment with minimal to no side effects.  During the CyberKnife treatment, hundreds of highly concentrated and incredibly precise beams of radiation are targeted directly to tumors and lesions in the lung.  As the patient breathes during the CyberKnife treatment, the CyberKnife robotic arm moves with the rise and fall of his/her body, meaning that healthy tissue is protected from radiation and only the tumor is treated.

For more information about how St. Louis CyberKnife treats lung cancer with CyberKnife technology, please click here.