The role of radiation therapy in malignant pleural mesothelioma: A systematic review

Radiotherapy and Oncology. 2006 Jul 1; [Epub ahead of print] [Link]

Ung YC, Yu E, Falkson C, Haynes AE, Stys-Norman D, Evans WK; the Lung Cancer Disease Site Group of Cancer Care Ontario’s Program in Evidence-based Care.

Toronto-Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre, Toronto, ON, Canada.


Introduction: Radiation therapy may offer patients presenting with malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) symptom palliation and improvements in quality of life. This systematic review will address the role of radiation therapy in the management of MPM.

Methods: A thorough systematic search of the literature was conducted for published articles and conference proceedings for applicable abstracts. Relevant trials were selected and assessed.

Results: Three small randomized controlled trials compared prophylactic external beam radiation therapy to no radiation therapy for patients with thoracic tracts caused by drainage tubes or diagnostic procedures. None of those trials reported any serious adverse effects. A pooled analysis found no significant reduction in the frequency of procedure tract metastases. Four non-comparative studies have shown that hemithoracic irradiation alone resulted in significant toxicity, including radiation-induced pulmonary fibrosis, radiation pneumonitis, and bronchopleural fistula, without any survival benefit. Few of the identified studies reported on symptom control, and no studies included formal measures of quality of life.

Conclusion: There is limited evidence for the role of radiotherapy in the management of patients with MPM. Future studies including radiotherapy for the treatment of such patients should include formal measures of quality of life and symptom control.