THURSDAY, Jan. 23, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with a rare type of lung cancer might be more likely to survive if they have radiation therapy before -- rather than after -- surgery, according to a small new study.
The study included 25 patients with mesothelioma who underwent five days of radiation therapy and had surgery to remove the affected lung the following week. Many patients who develop mesothelioma have been exposed to asbestos, the researchers said.
"The patients in our study experienced shorter treatment, fewer complications and speedier recovery," study lead author Dr. John Cho, a radiation oncologist at Princess Margaret Cancer Center in Toronto, said in a University Health Network news release. "The three-year survival rate more than doubled to 72 percent from 32 percent."
The findings about this treatment method -- called Surgery for Mesothelioma After Radiation Therapy (SMART) -- were published online Jan. 20 in the Journal of Thoracic Oncology.
Dr. Marc de Perrot, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Toronto and head of the Toronto Mesothelioma Research Program, also weighed in on the study's findings.
>"It was imperative to do the surgery quickly because the lung is particularly sensitive to radiation toxicity," said de Perrot, the study's co-author.
The SMART approach cut the treatment cycle for patients to one month from five months, de Perrot said. It also reduced the risk of recurrence because the radiation wiped out the cancer's ability to seed itself elsewhere in the chest or abdomen during surgery, he said.
"These research results offer real hope to mesothelioma patients who have too often been told in the past that they may have only six months to live," de Perrot said.
Since completing the study, Cho and de Perrot have used the approach to successfully treat 20 more patients, according to the news release.
The American Lung Association has more about mesothelioma.