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Radiotherapy Method Improves Survival in Elderly With Cancer

Stereotactic body radiotherapy also has cut the number of elderly whose lung cancer is untreated

THURSDAY, Nov. 4 (HealthDay News) -- The introduction of stereotactic body radiotherapy (SBRT) in the treatment of non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in elderly patients is associated with a significant improvement in survival and a drop in the proportion of untreated patients, according to a study published online Nov. 1 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

David Palma, M.D., of VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues used the Amsterdam Cancer Registry to assess the treatment of NSCLC in 875 elderly patients (75 or older) during three time spans: 1999 to 2001 (before SBRT introduction), 2002 to 2004 (early SBRT availability), and 2005 to 2007 (full SBRT access). The researchers compared overall survival for patients treated with surgery, radiotherapy (including SBRT), or neither treatment.

Overall, primary patient treatment was surgery in 34 percent of patients, radiotherapy in 34 percent, and neither treatment in 32 percent. Radiotherapy use accounted for 26 percent of treatment in 1999 to 2001 and increased to 42 percent by 2005 to 2007, corresponding to a decrease in untreated patients. In 2002 to 2004, 23 percent of radiotherapy patients received SBRT, which had increased to 55 percent by 2005 to 2007. Median survival increased from 16 months in 1999 to 2001 to 21 months in 2005 to 2007, with the improvement limited to radiotherapy patients.

"SBRT introduction was associated with a 16 percent absolute increase in radiotherapy use, a decline in the proportion of untreated elderly patients, and an improvement in overall survival," the authors write.

Several study authors disclosed financial ties to Varian Medical Systems and/or BrainLAB.

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