Researchers Say Evidence Lacking for Mesothelioma Pain Relief with Radiotherapy, According to Surviving Mesothelioma

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Radiotherapy has been used for decades to treat the pain of mesothelioma but Scottish scientists say the science is weak.

No high quality evidence currently exists to support radiotherapy in treating pain in malignant pleural mesothelioma.

New research conducted at the University of Edinburgh and reported by Surviving Mesothelioma suggests that radiotherapy needs to be more thoroughly studied as a treatment for mesothelioma pain.

As pleural mesothelioma tumors spread across the membrane surrounding the lungs, they can compress the lungs resulting in chest pain and shortness of breath. Radiotherapy has been used for years to help alleviate some of the pain by shrinking mesothelioma tumors. Although the treatment has never been seen as a cure for mesothelioma, it does appear to be able to slow the growth of tumors and reduce the most painful symptoms.

But a team of Scottish researchers says their review of past studies on mesothelioma pain and radiotherapy shows that scientific evidence for the practice is lacking. They searched for mesothelioma pain/radiotherapy studies in three databases dating back as far as 1974. To be eligible for review, the study had to be focused specifically on mesothelioma pain relief and had to include specific doses, fractionation data, and pain responses.

Although eight studies were found that met these criteria, the researchers concluded that they were not similar enough to present a clear picture of the impact of radiotherapy on mesothelioma pain. Summarizing the findings in the journal Lung Cancer, the authors conclude, “Due to marked heterogeneity among studies, quantitative synthesis of results was not possible. No high quality evidence currently exists to support radiotherapy in treating pain in malignant pleural mesothelioma.”

While radiotherapy does clearly help alleviate mesothelioma pain in some cases, the researchers say the lack of good studies on the subject makes dosing and treatment planning more difficult than it should be. The Scottish researchers are calling on the scientific community to organize better studies on the efficacy of radiotherapy for mesothelioma pain utilizing modern radiotherapy techniques and concentrating on dose escalation.

The original study appears in a recent issue of Lung Cancer. (Macleod, N, et al, “Radiotherapy for the treatment of pain in malignant pleural mesothelioma: A systematic review”, November 14, 2013, Lung Cancer, 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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