University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center
Last Modified: May 18, 1998
Lung cancer is the leading cancer killer, with more than 160,000 deaths annually. Radiation therapy is a standard treatment approach for people with lung cancer, and can be used alone or in combination with surgery or chemotherapy. In this study of radiation treatment schedules for patients with small-cell lung cancer, after five years of follow-up, significant improvements in survival were demonstrated when the radiation regimen was given more intensively -- twice-daily over three weeks, rather than once-daily over five weeks. Five-year survival was 28% for patients receiving twice-daily administration, versus 20% for those receiving radiation once-daily.
This result, which represents a major paradigm shift for administering radiation therapy for this disease, shows that the more intensive local treatment in a rapidly-growing tumor improves local control of the cancer, resulting in fewer patient deaths.