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Palliative Radiotherapy for Mesothelioma Faster with New Technology

Palliative Radiotherapy for Mesothelioma

A new type of linear accelerator could make palliative radiotherapy for mesothelioma faster and safer. 

That news comes from researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Perelman is the site of some of the world’s foremost mesothelioma research. 

Their new report on palliative radiotherapy for mesothelioma focuses on the Halcyon multileaf collimator. This machine delivers radiotherapy to relieve mesothelioma symptoms. 

The report shows patients were in and out of treatment within minutes. This could make Halcyon an option for fragile mesothelioma patients who could not tolerate a longer treatment.

What is Palliative Radiotherapy for Mesothelioma?

Palliative medicine is a branch of medicine focused on symptom management. Many mesothelioma patients have no symptoms for many years. But when mesothelioma symptoms do develop, they tend to worsen quickly.

Common symptoms of malignant pleural mesothelioma include:

  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

Palliative radiotherapy for mesothelioma can help lessen some of these symptoms. Ionizing radiation penetrates mesothelioma cells and disrupts their DNA. 

Mesothelioma cells cannot grow and multiply as quickly with damaged DNA. Irradiated tumors may grow more slowly or even shrink for a while. This can temporarily relieve symptoms. 

The Halcyon System for Symptom Relief

Linear accelerators use tiny flaps or “leaves” to regulate beams of radiation. The dual-layer arrangement of leaves in the Halcyon system from Varian is unique. The new system delivers intensity modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) faster than other systems and in a safer way. 

The new report is the first one on palliative radiotherapy for mesothelioma with the Halcyon system. 

Doctors share the experience of four patients with metastatic malignant pleural mesothelioma. Two patients had severe pain. One patient had difficulty swallowing. A fourth patient complained of shortness of breath. 

From start to finish, the average time in the treatment room was about ten minutes. The average radiation (“beam on”) time was just over a minute-and-a-half. That is about half the time of other systems that deliver palliative radiotherapy for mesothelioma. 

Just as importantly, the treatment helped relieve symptoms with minimal side effects. At a median of two months, all patients had either improved or stable mesothelioma symptoms. 

“In this initial clinical experience treating patients with palliative RT for MPM on Halcyon™, treatment provided symptom palliation and local control across multiple palliative scenarios, with minimal toxicity, acceptable dosimetry, and setup corrections and treatment times that compared favorably with other published experiences of MPM RT,” reports author Andrew Barsky and colleagues. 

Dr. Barsky concludes that palliative radiotherapy for mesothelioma with Halcyon™ offered “quick and safe tumor-related symptom relief”. He says this may make this system especially valuable for frail, elderly patients. 

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