Most patients diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma are treated with a multi-modality protocol that combines surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Each modality’s use is adjusted based upon the specifics of the patient’s condition, and particular care is used with radiation because of its potential for damaging healthy tissue. But a collaborative group of radiology experts has issued a consensus statement pointing to replacing the photon therapy most commonly used in radiation with proton therapy to eliminate this problem.
Challenges of Photon Therapy in Mesothelioma Treatment
Though radiation therapy is a widely-accepted cancer treatment, its use is limited in mesothelioma patients because their tumors are so close to vital organs including the heart, kidney and lungs. The photons delivered into tumors’ malignant cells successfully damage the malignant cells’ DNA but are also easily absorbed by normal tissue. The damage this causes may in and of itself be just as dangerous as the cancer, thus limiting its use.
By contrast, the energy that proton therapy emits does not travel as far as photons do. Where photons travel through the mesothelioma tumor and impact what is on the other side, protons release all of their energy inside the malignant cell, causing more damage where it is focused and stopping where it has been directed.
Consensus Statement Suggests Mesothelioma Use
The new information comes from radiation experts from the University of Washington School of Medicine, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and the Mayo Clinics in Rochester and in Arizona, all on behalf of the International Particle Therapy Cooperative Group Thoracic Subcommittee. Publishing in the journal Practical Radiation Oncology, the group summed up the clinical data on proton therapy use, writing, “The physical properties of proton therapy result in better sparing of normal tissues when treating the pleura, both in the post-pneumonectomy setting and the lung-intact setting. Compared to photon radiation, there are dramatic reductions in dose to the contralateral lung, heart, liver, kidneys, and stomach.” Their statement provides guidance for physicians, researchers and insurance companies.
If you are a mesothelioma patient, it is important to understand your treatment options. For more information, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net at 1-800-692-8608.