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According to an article published in the International Journal of Radiation, Oncology, Biology, Physics, 3-dimensional radiation therapy improves survival compared to 2-dimensional radiation therapy among patients with Stage I non–small cell lung cancer who are not eligible for surgery.

Non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) is the most common type of lung cancer. “Non–small cell” refers to the type of cell within the lung where the cancer originated. Early NSCLC refers to cancer that has not spread far from its site of origin.

Standard treatment for early NSCLC typically consists of the surgical removal of as much of the cancer as possible. However, some patients either choose to not undergo surgery because of side effects of the surgery or are unable to undergo surgery due to other existing medical conditions or age. These patients can be treated with radiation therapy.

More recently, 3D conformal radiotherapy and intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) have been used to treat patients with early NSCLC. In conformal 3D radiotherapy, multiple radiation beams are aimed at the tumor, sparing normal tissue. Two-D radiotherapy, on the other hand, utilizes parallel opposed fields of treatment that do not selectively spare normal tissue.

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Researchers from the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center recently conducted a study to evaluate the outcomes of 3-D radiation therapy in patients with inoperable Stage I NSCLC. The study included 85 patients with Stage I NSCLC who were treated with 3D radiation therapy and 115 patients who were treated with 2D radiation therapy.

  • At five years, overall survival was 36% for patients treated with 3D radiation therapy, compared to only 10% for those treated with 2D radiation therapy.
  • Cancer-free survival was 68% for patients treated with 3D radiation therapy, compared to only 29% for patients treated with 2D radiation therapy.

The researchers concluded that 3D radiation therapy appears to significantly improve survival compared to treatment with 2D therapy for patients with Stage I NSCLC who are not eligible for surgery. Patients with Stage I NSCLC who are to undergo radiation therapy may wish to speak with their physician about different types of radiation therapy.

Reference: Fang LC, Komaki R, Allen A, et al. Comparison of outcomes for patients with medically inoperable Stage I non-small cell lung cancer treated with two-dimensional vs. three-dimensional radiotherapy. International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics. 2006;66:108-116.

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