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Surgery, Radioactive Seeds: Promising Treatment for Lung Cancer

Thousands with Inoperable Tumors Could Benefit

New York City, NY (Oct. 19, 2005) — Lung cancer patients whose tumors are considered inoperable could benefit from limited surgery if it is combined with a procedure called brachytherapy, in which tiny radioactive seeds are implanted at the margins of the tumor, according to a study by researchers at Montefiore Medical Center presented today at the American Society of Therapeutic Radiation and Oncology meeting in Denver, Col.

The findings open up a new treatment option for a large subset of lung cancer patients who previously had little hope of survival.

"Although brachytherapy is not new, this is the first study to demonstrate that combining modern, minimally invasive and precision radiation techniques yields significantly improved results," said Subhakar Mutyala, MD, director of brachytherapy in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Montefiore and the lead author of the study.

"The study suggests two things.  First, brachytherapy has a 'low toxicity' and consequently is safe for these patients," said Dr. Mutyala.  "Second, by combining surgery and brachytherapy, many patients with previously inoperable tumors now can be operated on."  

The study reviewed 35 patients whose malignant lung tumors had invaded bone or blood vessels.  Such patients typically are not recommended for surgery because resection of the entire tumor is impossible.  They represent approximately 10 to 25 percent of the 200,000 patients annually who develop non-small cell lung cancer.

"By surgically removing much of the tumor in a standard procedure and then using implanted seeds to selectively radiate the cancerous tissue near the blood vessels or bone, we can decrease the likelihood the tumor will recur and improve the patient's chance of survival," Dr. Mutyala said.