Equal Treatments: Under the Knife or Radiation

Radiation therapy is equally as effective as surgery for treating early lung cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Stereotactic radiation therapy, a new type of targeted radiation therapy, is as good as surgery for treating early-stage lung cancer in patients 75 years of age and older, according to findings recently presented at the Chicago Multidisciplinary Symposium in Thoracic Oncology.

The symposium was sponsored by the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO), the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (ISLAC) and the University of Chicago.

Led by David Palma, M.D., a Canadian radiation oncologist working on this project while on a research fellowship at VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the researchers of this study conducted a comparison between surgery and stereotactic radiation as treatments for early-stage lung cancer. Although surgery has been the standard treatment for decades, many oncologists believe stereotactic radiation is equally effective.

Currently being studied in trials around the world, stereotactic radiation, or radiosurgery, involves one or a few targeted radiation therapy treatments. Stereotactic radiation is also referred to by brand names such as Axesse, CyberKnife, Gamma Knife, Novalis, Primatom, Synergy, X-Knife, TomoTherapy, and Trilogy.

In this specific trial, researchers analyzed long-term survival rates of elderly patients treated for early lung cancer between 2005 and 2007 in North Holland. Their findings showed no differences in survival rates for patients treated with either surgery or stereotactic radiation. However, they found that surgery presented a higher risk of death in the first 30 days.

Says Palma, "Many would expect that the patients treated with radiotherapy would do worse than those undergoing surgery." He continues, "At the time that these patients underwent treatment, patients only received radiation if they were too unwell for surgery or if they refused surgery. Because most radiotherapy patients had medical problems that prevented them from having surgery, we would expect them not to live as long as the surgery patients. Yet, despite this disadvantage, the radiotherapy patients lived just as long. This shows us that the stereotactic treatment is effective even in patients who have many medical problems. I would encourage patients with early lung cancer to talk to their oncologists to learn about all their treatment options, including radiation therapy."

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
December 12, 2010
Last Updated:
December 14, 2010