High-dose palliative radiotherapy for malignant pleural mesothelioma Academic Article uri icon


  • High-dose radiotherapy to the hemithorax for patients with malignant pleural mesothelioma is a controversial treatment. Between 2003 and 2013 our institution had a policy of giving hemithoracic radiotherapy to at least 45 Gy. This retrospective study reports survival, progression and toxicity associated with this policy.Seventy-one patients with pleural mesothelioma were irradiated with doses of 45-60 Gy. Conformal radiotherapy (3D-CRT) to the lower hemithorax was used for 17 and intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT) to the whole hemithorax for 54 patients. All patients have been followed up for at least 2 years from commencement of radiotherapy.Sixty-four patients (90%) completed planned radiotherapy and seven stopped early, usually due to progressive disease. Median overall survival was 9.5 months (95% CI: 7.7-12.4) and median progression-free survival was 4.9 months (95% CI: 4.4-5.8). Eighty-seven per cent of patients progressed or died within 2 years: 25% in-field, 49% outside the RT field and 13% died without progression. Severe toxicity (grade 3-5) was observed in 53% of 3D-CRT and 78% of IMRT patients, most commonly pulmonary fibrosis 27%, radiation dermatitis 18%, dyspnoea 11%, GGT increased 11%, pneumonitis 10%, pleuritic pain 8% and fatigue 8%. There were two, possibly three, treatment-related deaths.High-dose radiotherapy to the hemithorax caused significant toxicity to most patients with no improvement in survival. Lower doses of radiotherapy to limited volumes may be useful for palliative purposes.

publication date

  • 2017