Are Mesothelioma Patients Leaving An Effective Treatment on the Table?

Many patients diagnosed with malignant mesothelioma are skipping or abandoning a treatment protocol that could extend their lives by several months, and researchers from MD Anderson are trying to determine why. The protocol is Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT), a type of targeted radiation that sends powerful radiotherapy beams directly into malignant tumors, leaving surrounding tissue unharmed. Delivered as part of a multi-modality treatment it has proven effective, yet a surprising number of patients never complete the treatment.

Mesothelioma Survival Time Extended by IMRT

Research has proven that the mesothelioma patients with the longest survival times are those who undergo trimodal treatments including surgical removal of tumors and diseased tissue, chemotherapy and radiation. An earlier study conducted at MD Anderson specifically looked at the impact of trimodal therapy using IMRT and found that it extended survival by several months, delivering a median survival time for those with epithelioid mesothelioma of 23.4 months.

But despite this consistent rate of success, a retrospective study found that many patients walked away from IMRT, never completing it and succumbing to their disease in a shorter period of time. The researchers set out to determine why, and found that the answers varied.

Adjuvant Radiotherapy Use in Mesothelioma Studied

Though there are several forms of radiation therapy that can be used in treating mesothelioma, the MD Anderson study specifically looked at 160 pleural mesothelioma patients reated between 2004 and 2017. Six in ten had undergone an aggressive surgery called extrapleural pneumonectomy, while the other 4 in ten had less aggressive lung sparing surgery. All were candidates for IMRT, yet only two out of three finished their scheduled treatment.

The researchers found that more than ten percent of patients didn’t finish radiotherapy because they had died, while another 15% couldn’t continue because the therapy made them ill. Others were impacted by slow healing or complications from surgery, while there was no clear reason for why others stopped the therapy. Age and surgery type seemed to have little to no impact on the outcomes.

Mesothelioma patients are urged to take advantage of all of the protocols available to them. If you need information on the benefits of any of them, or on how to access them, the Patient Advocates at can help. Call us today at  1-800-692-8608.

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Heimann Oppenheimer is the head writer of our news blog. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Terri believes that knowledge is power and she is committed to sharing news about the impact of mesothelioma, the latest research and medical breakthroughs, and victims’ stories.

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