From the blog

Mesothelioma Patient Survival Potentially Doubles with Targeted Radiotherapy

Published: May 1, 2019

Radiotherapy, also known as radiation therapy, is a type of cancer treatment that uses ionizing radiation to kill cancer cells by damaging the cell’s DNA. It can be used as either a curative or palliative treatment and is often used alongside chemotherapy, either before, during, or after. Radiotherapy can be especially successful in some cancer cases, but unfortunately, radiotherapy does harm healthy cells causing the patient to become weaker over time and have poor side effects. This limits the use of radiotherapy.

For those suffering from mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer caused by asbestos exposure, radiotherapy is often given as palliative treatment – to help control pain and symptoms. In some cases, those receiving radiotherapy for palliative care do see tumor shrinkage and an increased life span (of about a year).

Researchers and scientists from the University Hospital of Udine in Italy recently presented their findings at the ESTRO 38 conference that patients who receive high doses of radiotherapy for mesothelioma survive on average two years longer than those who do not.  Mesothelioma typically has a poor prognosis; one year or less after initial diagnosis.

Targeting the right area with high dosage aims to have a curative effect, and keeps the tumors from spreading. In this study, 108 pleural mesothelioma patients were examined between 2014 and 2018. These patients had tumors that could not be entirely removed with surgery. A typical dose of radiation is 20-30 gray (Gy) and done for 5-10 treatments.  Half of the 108 patients received this standard treatment.

The other 54 patients were given a more aggressive treatment, receiving 50 Gy and 60 Gy to the exact location of the tumor. This was done over the course of 25 treatments.

Results showed that 58 percent of those who received the more aggressive treatment plan were still alive two years later. Of those who received the standard palliative care, 28 percent were still alive two years later.

Even though these results were significant and promising for future treatment, there were a number of side effects. Most commonly, patients experienced pneumonitis, which is a lung inflammation. Inflammation of the esophagus and nausea were also reported side effects.

There is no cure for mesothelioma but researchers and scientists are hopeful that with targeted treatments and combined therapies such as radiotherapy, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy, patients will achieve a greater chance of survival, or at least extend their time.


European Society for Radiotherapy and Oncology (ESTRO), “Radiotherapy Doubles Survival for Patients with Mesothelioma (April 28, 2019). [Link]

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