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Study Yields Disappointing Results in Treatment of Pleural Mesothelioma

As Roxanne Nelson reports for Medscape, scientific research presented at the 2014 Congress in Madrid, sponsored by the European Society for Medical Oncology, or ESMO, indicates that high-dose radiotherapy does not appear to benefit patients suffering from malignant pleural mesothelioma (in patients who have also undergone chemotherapy and radical surgery).

The goal of radiotherapy is to prevent or delay the time of recurrence, or when the disease comes back, but the results of the study showed no additional benefit among those who underwent high-dose radiotherapy and those who did not. The hope was that radiotherapy would at least increase the period of time before recurrence.

Nelson quotes Dr. Rolf Stahel, lead author of the study: "To our disappointment, there was no significant improvement."

What is radiotherapy?

Radiotherapy, also known as radiation oncology, is a method of cancer treatment that uses ionizing radiation to kill malignant cancer cells. According to the National Cancer Institute, doctors treat patients using radiotherapy with the hope of shrinking or killing tumors and preventing recurrence. Radiotherapy can be used on its own or together with chemotherapy and surgery, as the study's patients were.

What is malignant pleural mesothelioma?

The American Cancer Society says that three out of four cases of mesotheliomas are pleural, meaning they start in the chest (the pleura is chest fluid coating both the lungs and lung cavity, helping the lungs expand and contract).

About the European Society for Medical Oncology

ESMO bills itself as "the leading European professional organization, committed to advancing the specialty of medical oncology and promoting a multidisciplinary approach to cancer treatment and care."

Today is the final day of ESMO's 2014 Congress, the theme of which was "precision medicine in cancer care."

Nelson ends her report with a call for better treatment of mesothelioma. Nelson quotes a doctor who seems to give a poor prognosis: "[W]e can say that we don't have a proven treatment."

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