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Added chemotherapy improves lung cancer survival

Thu Jul 26, 2007 6:11PM EDT

A course of chemotherapy prior to standard treatment, known as "induction" chemotherapy, appears to improve survival in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common type of lung cancer, according to a report in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics.

Concurrent treatment with radiation and chemotherapy, referred to as chemoradiation, is the standard therapy for NSCLC that cannot be surgically removed, the authors explain, but whether induction chemotherapy should be added to this treatment remains unclear.

Dr. Ritsuko Komaki and colleagues from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston compared the outcomes for 265 patients treated with or without induction chemotherapy prior to concurrent chemoradiation.

The 2-year survival rates were better in the patients who received induction chemotherapy than those treated with chemoradiation alone: 49 versus 34 percent. This was also true of the 5-year rates: 25 versus 12 percent, the authors report.

Subjects treated with induction chemotherapy survived for about 1.9 years, while those treated with chemoradiation alone survived for 1.4 years. While patients in the former group were just as likely as the latter to have the cancer spread around the lungs, they were less likely to have it spread or "metastasize" to distant parts of the body.

According to the researchers, this finding explains the improved survival seen.

Induction chemotherapy was the strongest factor associated with improved survival, the investigators say, but having less advanced lung cancer and having twice-daily radiation treatment were also associated with improved survival rates.

SOURCE: International Journal of Radiation Oncology*Biology*Physics, July 1, 2007.

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