Lung cancer patients can breathe a sigh of relief as a new study has suggested that they can get their radiotherapy over with more quickly without affecting their survival.
Having radiotherapy once a day for six and a half weeks or twice a day for three weeks, when combined with chemotherapy, is equally good at treating small cell lung cancer that hasn’t spread.
These results from a Cancer Research UK-funded clinical trial, presented at the ASCO cancer conference, mean patients and doctors can choose together which treatment suits them best.
The CONVERT clinical trial also found that small cell lung cancer patients live longer and with fewer side effects than previous studies suggested which is likely to be because of the modern radiotherapy techniques used.
Around 550 patients from around the world were split into two groups – one receiving radiotherapy twice a day over three weeks and the other once a day at a higher dose over six and a half weeks. All patients also had chemotherapy.
Scientists from the University of Manchester and the Christie Hospital with others in France, Spain, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, Slovenia and Canada found that survival in both groups was similar with 56 per cent of patients who had radiotherapy twice a day surviving for two years compared with 51 per cent of those given it once a day.
Importantly, the majority of side effects from radiotherapy were similar in both groups, apart from neutropenia, weakening of the immune system, which happened more often in twice daily treatment group (in 74 per cent of the patients who had twice daily radiotherapy compared with 65 per cent of the once daily group).
The trial results support the use of either once daily or twice daily radiotherapy with chemotherapy as standard treatment for small cell lung cancer that hasn’t spread. This means that individual patients’ treatment can be planned with their doctor according to what works best for them and their hospital.