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Spare whole brain radiotherapy for lung cancer patients whose tumour has spread to the brain

Whole brain radiotherapy makes little or no difference to survival rates or quality of life in patients with non-small cell lung cancer which has spread to the brain, say researchers. 
radiotherapy

Whole brain radiotherapy makes little or no difference to survival rates or quality of life in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) which has spread to the brain, say researchers.

Up to 30% of patients with NSCLC have the disease spread to the brain. They are typically treated with steroids and supportive care, such as pain relief, to control cancer symptoms. They may also be offered whole brain radiotherapy daily for one or two weeks to improve symptoms.

Fast fact

Around 45,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK every year. An estimated 85% of cases are NSCLC.

To assess the benefit of this, the Cancer Research UK-funded team studied 538 patients from the UK and Australia. Half had whole

...

Whole brain radiotherapy makes little or no difference to survival rates or quality of life in patients with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) which has spread to the brain, say researchers.

radiotherapy
The Cancer Research UK-funded team studied 538 patients from the UK and Australia.
Picture: Science Photo Library 

Up to 30% of patients with NSCLC have the disease spread to the brain. They are typically treated with steroids and supportive care, such as pain relief, to control cancer symptoms. They may also be offered whole brain radiotherapy daily for one or two weeks to improve symptoms. 

Fast fact 

Around 45,000 people are diagnosed with lung cancer in the UK every year. An estimated 85% of cases are NSCLC. 

To assess the benefit of this, the Cancer Research UK-funded team studied 538 patients from the UK and Australia. Half had whole brain radiotherapy, the rest did not, and all received steroids and supportive care. 

They found no clear difference in survival or quality of life between the patients who did and did not receive whole brain radiotherapy. Patients having whole brain radiotherapy lived around five days longer, but the researchers said this could be down to chance.

‘These results confirm we can safely omit this treatment and concentrate on other ways of ensuring patients receive the best end of life care,' the researchers said. 


Mulvenna P et al (2016) Dexamethasone and supportive care with or without whole brain radiotherapy in treating patients with non-small cell lung cancer with brain metastases unsuitable for resection or stereotactic radiotherapy (QUARTZ): results from a phase 3, non-inferiority, randomised trial. The Lancet. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)30825-X

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