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Palliative radiotherapy in locally advanced and metastatic carcinoma of lung with two radiotherapy regimens: A randomized comparative study from tertiary health-care cancer center

Anjan Bera, Priyanka Das, Shatarupa Dutta, Chandrima Banerjee, Linkon Biswas.


Background: Worldwide, leading cause of cancer mortality is lung cancer. Approximately 63,000/year new lung cancer cases reported in India. Around 80–85% of patients of lung cancer is non-small cell histology (non-small cell lung cancer) and over >90% of patients presented locally advanced and metastatic disease. Hence, in these patients, population curative treatment approach with radiotherapy (RT) and chemotherapy in most of the time is non-viable option yielding short survival and relatively poor prognosis. In majority of such cases, the only aim of treatment remains palliative, the main aim is to improve quality of life. Although there are other medical management of symptoms palliation, radiation therapy is the cheapest option, quite effective, time efficient, and well tolerated in providing relief from symptoms. The rate of palliation of symptoms is quite high for chest pain and hemoptysis at 60–80%, whereas cough and dyspnea are improved in only 50–70%. For intrathoracic disease with obstructive symptoms, 30 Gy/10# over 2 weeks are generally recommended. Patients with poor performance status, advanced age, and associated comorbidity at the time of diagnosis, for which daily RT over 2–3 weeks is logistically difficult, 1–2 fractions have been utilized with good results. There are multiple randomized trials showed that both short and long RT course were equally effective for symptoms control.

Aims and Objectives: The aims of our study are to compare the outcome, symptom control and assess toxicity profile in locally advanced lung cancer patient with 17 Gy/2 fractions (8.5 Gy/fraction, × 2 fractions) only on Saturdays over 2 weeks versus 30 Gy/10 fractions (3 Gy/fraction) over 2 weeks and to compare quality of life.

Materials and Methods: This study was a single-institutional, prospective, open-labeled, randomized controlled study. Eligible patients were age ≥18 years with histopathologically proven lung carcinoma which was inoperable Stage III or IV disease and too locally advanced to curative concurrent chemoradiation, pulmonary symptoms attributable to the primary tumor, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) performance status ≤3, and adequate hematologic (hemoglobin >10 g/dl; absolute neutrophil count >1500; platelet count >100,000/ml; and hepatic and renal function calculated creatinine >60 ml/min). Patients with bleeding diathesis, emphysematous bullae, poor respiratory function or reserve, pregnancy, and ECOG performance status >3 were excluded from the study.

Results: Age, stage, histopathology, and pre-treatment symptoms score between two groups were comparable and statistically not significant. Pain in chest due to lung cancer was decreased in both arms due to treatment (at treatment completion Arm A = 47.62 and Arm B = 38.09). However, at the 2nd follow-up, difference between two arms was statistically significant where Arm A = 27.78 and Arm B = 15.00; P = 0.005. Global health status of patients in this study was improved in both arms due to treatment. Physical functioning emotional functioning, role functioning, global health status, cognitive functioning, and social functioning were improved in both arms due to treatment and kept improving during follow-up, but difference between two arms was not significance.

Conclusions: Although overall symptom palliation, toxicity profile, and quality of life parameters are almost equal in both arms, patients with short expected survival, 8.5 Gy × 2 fractions would be preferable, limiting the number of hospital visit to a minimum. On the other hand, 3 Gy × 10 fractions schedule can be chosen for those patients with longer expected survival and better ECOG status, due to prolong duration of palliative response.

Key words: Radiotherapy; Symptoms; Palliation; Lung Carcinoma; Performance Status

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