Study Shows Outlook Better for People with Radiation-Induced Mesothelioma, According to Survival Mesothelioma

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Harvard researchers have found some important differences between mesothelioma patients based on the cause of their cancer.

The study subjects who got mesothelioma after radiation had a longer overall survival than typical mesothelioma patients.

A team of top U.S. cancer researchers say people who contract pleural mesothelioma after having chest radiation may fare better in the long run than patients with the more typical asbestos-induced mesothelioma. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology and reported by Surviving Mesothelioma, analyzed the medical records of 1,618 consecutive mesothelioma patients treated at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston between 1993 and 2008.

Although the majority of mesothelioma cases in the study were triggered by exposure to asbestos-containing products on the job, 22 study subjects had no history of asbestos exposure. In these patients, mesothelioma is believed to have been caused by radiotherapy to their chests as a treatment for lymphoma.

The research team, which includes notable mesothelioma expert Dr. David Sugarbaker, found several significant differences between people with asbestos-linked mesothelioma and those who got the disease after having radiation. First, the radiation-induced mesothelioma cases tended to be diagnosed at a much younger age. The median age at diagnosis was 45 in contrast to the more typical median of 64 years for the asbestos-induced cases.

Second, in 32% of cases, radiation-linked mesothelioma cells tended to have unusual microscopic anatomic features (called histology), such as variations in cell sizes or shape. As with asbestos-linked disease, most of the radiation-linked mesothelioma cells (77%) tended to be of the epithelioid subtype, but the higher percentage of those with unusual histology set them apart.

Finally, the study subjects who got mesothelioma after radiation had a longer overall survival than typical mesothelioma patients. While the median overall survival for most of the 1,618 studied patients was 12.7 months, the radiation-linked cases had a median overall survival nearly three times as long at 32.5 months.

Being female, being younger than 65, having had cytoreductive surgery, and having the epithelioid mesothelioma subtype were all independently associated with longer survival in the radiation-induced mesothelioma cases. Having a better understanding of the differences between these types of mesothelioma may help guide clinicians in their treatment planning.

The original study appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology. (Cirieac, LR, et al, “Clinicopathologic Characteristics of Malignant Mesotheliomas Arising in Patients With a History of Radiation for Hodgkin and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma”, November 18, 2013, Journal of Clinical Oncology, Epub ahead of print.

For nearly ten years, Surviving Mesothelioma has brought readers the most important and ground-breaking news on the causes, diagnosis and treatment of mesothelioma. All Surviving Mesothelioma news is gathered and reported directly from the peer-reviewed medical literature. Written for patients and their loved ones, Surviving Mesothelioma news helps families make more informed decisions.

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Michael Ellis
Cancer Monthy
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